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The last time the N.C. legislature decided a contested race…

If you’re confused about what’s going on in the never-ending race for governor in North Carolina, you’re in good company.

If you’re worried that the race, one of the most hotly contested in the country, could end up being decided by the N.C. General Assembly…well, you’re not alone in that, either.

There is some precedent for it – the contested 2004 contest between June Atkinson, a Democrat, and Bill Fletcher, a Republican, for Superintendent of North Carolina Public Instruction.

That case and the gubernatorial race have some important differences – most importantly, in 2004 there were around 4,500 ballots missing due to malfunctioning voting equipment in Carteret County.

That’s not the case this year, with only a few hundred ballots having been questioned by the campaign of Gov. Pat McCrory, who trails Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by nearly 9,716 votes, according to the latest figures from the state board of elections. That’s very close to the 10,000 vote margin that would preclude McCrory even demanding a recount.

But it’s worth reading this article about that race and its aftermath by Robert P. Joyce of the UNC School of Government to understand where we now are.

From the summary of the Joint Select Committee that summarized the legislature’s role in 2004:

“The General Assembly’s constitutional responsibility is to determine the will of the people in the election. The Constitution settles this responsibility on the legislature as the body closest to the people and most directly accountable to the people for actions on their behalf . . . In a case where there is disagreement about what the electorate has decided, the General Assembly acts constitutionally as the direct representative of the electorate itself.”

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