RALEIGH -- In a 3-2 party-line vote Wednesday night, the North Carolina State Board of Elections agreed to recount more than 94,000 Durham County ballots from the Nov. 8 election.
The board’s Republicans -- Chairman Grant Whitney, Jr., Secretary Rhonda Amoroso and James Baker -- voted in favor of an appeal relating to a protest filed by Thomas Stark, a Durham resident and attorney.
Democrats Joshua Malcolm and Maja Kricker voted against the recount and supported the Republican-majority Durham County Board of Elections' Nov. 18 decision to deny Stark’s protest based on lack of evidence that election results were unreliable.
Baker described seeing a 50,000 lead between incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and his Democrat challenger Roy Cooper changing to McCrory being behind by 5,000 votes “in the blink of an eye” on election night as an “irregularity.”
“I think that needs to be rectified in the public’s mind,” Baker said. “It’s not going to hurt anything I believe to re-scan those votes and count those votes again.”
As of Wednesday night, Cooper led McCrory by more than 10,200 votes statewide, with four counties still in the process of finalizing canvass results. McCrory can only seek a statewide recount if he finishes within 10,000 votes of Cooper.
“We are pleased that the State Board of Elections has recognized the voting irregularities in Durham County and we will respect whatever the results show,” said Pat McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck after Wednesday’s decision. “We ask that this is done immediately.”
Cooper campaign manager Trey Nix issued the following statement after Wednesday’s decision: “We are confident that this recount will confirm Roy Cooper's election as Governor of North Carolina. It is wrong that Gov. McCrory continues to waste taxpayer money with false accusations and attempts to delay and that the Republican controlled Board of Elections did not follow the law. However, Roy Cooper's lead has grown to over 10,000 votes and after a partial recount of six precincts in one county, the outcome of the election will be the same.”
According to Durham’s canvassed results, 30,680 votes were for McCrory, and 122,047 for Cooper.
Malcolm disagreed there was an irregularity and said he knew Durham County’s votes were 4-1 in favor of Cooper.
“I think it’s a travesty that we’re going to interpret what happened in Durham County as an irregularity,” Malcolm said. “I think it sets absolutely a wrong precedent for this board to interpret the law that way.”
Josh Lawson, the state BOE’s general counsel agreed that the board needed findings of fact for the quasi-judicial process.
“You all have not all collectively entered that there are in fact an issue found that (handling of election results) was wrong,” Lawson said.
Stark questioned the accuracy of the results, after more than 94,000 ballots were manually entered into the state’s system as a result of memory card limits.
Manufacturers of the voting machines and a state board of elections employee testified at both the Nov. 18 hearing and Wednesday night’s hearing that the cards exceeded each machine’s limit of 65,525, but votes recorded on tape are accurate.
Durham County’s BOE staff and board testified at Wednesday’s hearing that they believe the results are accurately represented.
“I think it is a tragedy that we are not upholding the Durham County board, which held a very careful hearing and a very careful deliberation,” Kricker said.
Stark told the state BOE Wednesday reasonable doubt still existed relating to the results, because no one has examined all of the cards’ checked ballots to see if results match the tapes.