Statewide recanvass might be in the future

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has issued an order concerning the Nov. 8 general election, an order that could affect its certification of election results.

The order addresses specific legal issues affecting the authentication of that election, including election protests. In essence, the order — sent to the 100 county boards of elections in the state — states that protests that would not change the outcome of an election should be dismissed.

In the extremely close contest between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and challenger Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic attorney general, some people accuse McCrory’s campaign of trying to delay ballot canvasses by filing election protests in about half of the state’s 100 counties. McCrory’s critics say most of those protests would not affect the outcome of the election, in which Cooper leads McCrory by 9,716 votes as of Tuesday.

McCrory’s allies in the protest effort contend the governor wants to ensure the voting process and canvass process are being conducted fairly and legally.

“A protest that does not allege an election law violation regarding a sufficient number of votes to change the outcome of a single-county contest shall not delay the county canvass procedures since the county may not retrieve and discount such ballots. In no case shall the county board delay the timely hearing and decision on a protest timely filed,” reads a section of the order.

Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County, further explains the state board’s order.

“They’re (county boards) to dismiss if it doesn’t make a difference in their counties. … They (state board) say dismiss it if it’s a protest and it doesn’t affect your county races,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “So, say in the county commissioners (race), we had three (protests), say if it made a difference in the county commissioners, then we could pull those ballots and do something about it; but if it doesn’t make a difference then dismiss it and report those issues to the state board, and the state board will corroborate with all 100 counties to bring those numbers together. If they’re told by the counties they have X number and it makes a difference in a statewide contest, the state board will ask the counties to recanvass.”

The three protests involving alleged felons voting were dismissed because the person who filed them did not attend a preliminary hearing conducted by the Beaufort County Board of Elections.

The state board wants each county board to report its findings “because it could have an impact on statewide results, cumulatively,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins added: “Protests hold up canvass. What they’re saying is you can’t hold up canvass for something that doesn’t change an election. … We’ll report them (findings) to the state board once I go through them. Then, they’ll get those numbers together and see if it makes a difference in the statewide stuff, which I don’t think it will. There wasn’t but just a couple hundred of them maybe. … But if it did, they could turn around and say, ‘OK counties, we found evidence from all 100 counties that there may not be enough in your county to change it, but when you cumulatively add them all together, it could make a difference, and we’re going to ask you to recanvass and pull these votes.’ It would be under state direction.”

In a related matter, a federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday to consider a lawsuit filed last week by the Civitas Institute, which wants the state board to delay certifying vote totals until the addresses of people who registered to vote during the early voting period are substantiated. Civitas contends that means the statewide canvass could not be conducted until Dec. 7. Voting-rights organizations such as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are fighting the lawsuit.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike