Activists are once again claiming a win for Democrat Roy Cooper in his quest to defeat North Carolina's incumbent, anti-LGBT governor, Pat McCrory.
Cooper passed a crucial 10,000-vote threshold on Wednesday that will block a statewide recount in the still-undecided North Carolina gubernatorial race, results for which have been challenged by McCrory.
The bitterly fought contest in North Carolina has proven the “closest governor’s race in the country in a dozen years,” as Politico reports. Currently, Cooper leads his Republican opponent by 10,329 votes, which is over the threshold by which McCrory can order that ballots be recounted by hand. Should the margin between gubernatorial hopefuls be greater than 10,000 votes or .5 percent, politicians who demand statewide retabulation must pay out of pocket.
Since the November 8 election, McCrory has borrowed a tactic from president-elect Donald Trump, who claimed that the voting system was “rigged” while he was behind in the 2016 election. The sitting governor has attempted to cast doubt on the entire electoral process.
McCrory, who enacted a voter ID law in 2014 that a court ruled earlier this year disenfranchised African-American voters, has alleged widespread fraud in half of North Carolina’s counties. He has claimed that voters cast ballots multiple times and that felons and the deceased voted in the 2016 election, putting Cooper over the top in key districts.
State Republicans have pointed to at least 200 votes that should be thrown out, according to Reuters. They believe that with further investigation, more will be discovered.
If the GOP hopes to overturn the results of the election, they scored a key victory this week when the Republican-controlled State Board of Elections ordered a recount of 94,000 votes in Durham County that conservatives believe were tainted by faulty voting machines. On Wednesday, they voted 3 to 2, along party lines, to manually recount the ballots.
That process could drag the election on well into December.
“What harm would it do to scan these votes and count them so that no one campaign is going to think 'why wouldn't they count those votes?'” board member James Baker told Durham's WTVD.
But the Durham County Board of Elections, which is also controlled by Republicans, already rejected a request for a recount from Gov. McCrory, citing insufficient evidence of its necessity. As board chairman William Brian told Politico, the “burden of proof is on the complainant in these cases.”
The process of counting ballots was slowed on Election Day by voting machine issues, which he claimed is “not atypical.”
“The votes came in on time, but we didn’t get them entered into the computer until late,” Brian said, explaining that the ballots were counted by hand to ensure accuracy. “It’s not like somebody found 95,000 at midnight somewhere. We just had to enter them manually.”
If McCrory remains behind in the governor’s race, the most likely reason for that is not due to unconfirmed reports of voter fraud. Exit polls conducted on Election Day showed that two-thirds of voters felt that House Bill 2, the anti-LGBT legislation signed into law by McCrory earlier this year, had harmed the state. Just 29 percent of voters were in favor of HB 2.
The bill, passed in March, forces trans people to use bathrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity when visiting schools and government buildings. It also blocks local legislatures from enacting their own protections.
Cooper, the state attorney general who made headlines for refusing to defend HB 2 in court, ran against the unpopular legislation, which has been very costly for the Tar Heel State. University of California Los Angeles’ Williams Institute, a pro-LGBT think tank, has estimated that HB 2 will lead to $5 billion in economic losses every year it remains in place.
The Democrat warned that dragging out the election will keep the state from moving on from discrimination.
“It’s 40 days until I take the oath of office,” Cooper said in a pre-taped video message to supporters on Sunday night. “It would be irresponsible to wait any longer to tackle the issues we campaigned on across the state.”