Those anxious to know who will be the next governor of North Carolina may not have an answer anytime soon.
With nearly 4.7 million ballots cast, GOP Gov. Pat McCrory trailed Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper by about 5,000.
Cooper claimed victory over McCrory, but the Republican incumbent told his supporters “the election is not over” while citing some still-uncounted votes.
The N.C. Board of Elections issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon detailing the post-election process, stating that statewide results for all federal, statewide, multi-district and judicial contests will be certified at a public meeting held 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29.
“Results in each contest are not considered official until that date,” stated Joshua Lawson, board spokesperson.
In the meantime, absentee and provisional ballots will be counted, and audits will be conducted in randomly selected precincts.
The tens of thousands of uncounted provisional ballots could decide the governor’s race, some which wouldn’t have been counted if the courts had upheld a Republican-backed law that limited voting access, according to The Associated Press.
“We’re waiting with baited breath,” said Surry County Democratic Party chair John Wiles. “That’s going to be a tough call between now and then.”
Attempts to contact Dan Kiger, Surry County Republican Party chair, for comment were not immediately successful.
NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes:
“The North Carolina Republican Party is working closely with Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign and other teams to deploy hundreds of volunteers and dozens of teams of lawyers across the state to ensure that every vote is counted in accordance with the laws of the state,” N.C. GOP Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement issued Wendesday.
“We will direct any and all appropriate resources to this effort, and are confident that once all votes are counted, North Carolina will continue to prosper under four more years of Pat McCrory’s leadership.”
Even though Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Donald Trump secured victories by comfortable margins, McCrory was dogged throughout the campaign by his support for House Bill 2, a law limiting LGBT rights — a prime example, according to Democrats, of the state’s rightward shift under his watch.
Republicans have kept veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate despite Democratic efforts to cut into GOP advantages.
“We really did get beat up, especially in North Carolina,” Wiles said.
Because of the Republican majority stronghold, Wiles said hopes that Cooper will be able to keep his promise to repeal HB2 have dwindled, although the election of Mike Morgan, a democratic candidate for N.C. Supreme Court Justice, may help in that regard when it comes to enforcing the controversial law on the ground.
“That’s a wonderful thing,” Wiles said, also citing Josh Stein’s election as Attorney General cause for celebration among democrats.
Locally, Wiles said one of the most important things at stake involves the very issue that may have helped Cooper edge ahead of McCrory: voter access.
“I’m hoping,” he said, “when the recount is done and Cooper comes out on top, the county board of election will go from one democratic member to two democratic members out of three.
“That’s a fairly big deal,” he said.
A Democratic majority in the local board of elections could result in more voting sites and more voting hours, according to Wiles.
“It makes the process more inclusive,” he said. “I hope when the recount is done Cooper comes out on top.”
Board of Elections timeline
Two other statewide races in North Carolina are very close and some may be headed for recounts.
Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood is 3,100 votes ahead of Republican challenger Chuck Stuber.
For attorney general, Democrat Josh Stein is almost 21,000 votes ahead of Republican Buck Newton. The winner succeeds Cooper.
• Mail-in absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Nov. 14. Overseas and military absentee ballots are accepted through Nov. 17.
• Every county conducts a sample hand-to-eye count of ballots in randomly selected precincts and one-stop locations to confirm results tabulated by machine. Counties must conduct their hand-to-eye counts in public.
• Each county board of elections will meet before certifying the election to make decisions on provisional applications submitted by voters during early voting and on Election Day. If the board determines that the voter is eligible, the provisional ballot is counted. Provisional ballots are cast when an individual’s registration information does not appear in the poll books or there are other questions about that person’s eligibility to vote.
• County boards of elections will certify results at public meetings held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18.
For statewide contests this year, the vote difference must be 10,000 votes or less for a candidate to demand a recount after the county canvass.
The demand for a recount must be in writing and received by the State Board of Elections no later than noon Tuesday, Nov. 22.
If a recount is demanded, the State Board of Elections Office would issue a schedule, and the counties would conduct recounts individually during open meetings.
For non-statewide contests, the difference between the candidates must be within 1 percent of the total votes cast in the ballot item.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.