In a rambling two-hour emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, the State Board of Elections voted 5-0 to assume jurisdiction over voting tallies in Bladen County, where there is an investigation into alleged absentee ballot mills.
However, the board, which holds a 3-2 Republican majority, stopped short of acquiescing to a request from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign to assume jurisdiction over 52 local election boards where protests had been filed. That move would have stripped those boards of control over their own proceedings, including investigations and hearings. Five counties, including Halifax and Durham, have already dismissed their protests, although appeals could still be filed.
McCrory trails Democrat Roy Cooper by about 8,000 votes. Under state law, McCrory can ask for a recount if the final margin is fewer than 10,000 votes.
According to the most recent county protest filings, the total number of votes involved is roughly 300. Even if all those votes were invalidated — and all of them went for McCrory — it would not change the outcome of the governor’s race.
The board will meet again Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Raleigh to give legal guidance to the 52 counties that are grappling with protests and voter challenges. Any legal ruling, though, could be applied to the other 48 counties, where protests could still be filed by the deadline: the second business day after the canvass concludes, generally this Wednesday.
Rhonda Amoroso, a Republican member of the state board, said she was concerned that Tuesday’s meeting would take too long, and thus the scope of the meeting should be limited. “It sounds like we’re going to have a circus,” she said. “We can’t have a kangaroo court. We can’t have people droning on for 12 hours without a dinner break.”
The board also considered telling all counties — even those without protests and challenges — to stop their canvasses. Some of those final vote tallies are already underway; others are scheduled to begin tomorrow. That motion failed, and those canvasses can continue.
In counties without protests, the canvasses can be finalized now that the state board has analyzed voter registrations that were conducted through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Many voters had complained that although they had registered through the DMV, when they went to the polls election workers told them they were not registered. Instead, those voters had to cast provisional ballots.
Brian Neesby, a business systems analyst with the SBOE, said 1,499 voters had been affected. Research on those voters’ eligibility has been sent to the respective counties, he said.
Kim Strach, executive director of the SBOE, said an audit of Department of Correction databases and voter registration rolls showed that 339 people had cast absentee or one-stop ballots who also had a felony conviction. “We don’t know how many election day voters may have cast ballots [who are felons],” she said.
People with felony convictions can vote in North Carolina as long as they are “off paper,” meaning they are no longer in jail or on parole or probation.
The board also rejected Amoroso’s request to assume jurisdiction in Durham County. Amoroso, the former chairperson of the New Hanover GOP, lodged vague allegations that “something is out there,” but added, “I don’t know if there’s criminal activity.”
There has never been an allegation nor an investigation into criminal activity in Durham during the General Election. On Friday, the Durham Board of Elections, which like all local elections boards, has a Republican majority, voted 3-0 to dismiss a protest by NCGOP attorney Thomas Stark for lack of evidence.
John Posthill, who was among Stark’s witnesses, has filed additional protests. He alleges seven felons voted illegally and that 17 people voted in two states. However, he did not provide exact street addresses for those 17 people. He also claims that provisional ballots were mishandled, but says someone else witnessed it.
Posthill lives in Morrisville but in a portion that lies within Durham County.
This story is developing. Check back Monday for more coverage.