Governor blocks state elections board from hiring outside counsel in election lawsuit

In the midst of a controversial challenge to his loss in the Nov. 8 election, Gov. Pat McCrory has rejected a request from State Board of Elections to hire outside counsel in a lawsuit related to the election itself.

McCrory has for weeks refused to concede the election to his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper. Cooper bested McCrory in the statewide race by about 5,000 votes on election night and that lead has grown to more than 9,000 as absentee and provisional ballots have been counted.

As ballots continue to be tallied and final canvasses are completed around the state, Cooper is close to the 10,000 vote margin that would deny the McCrory campaign the right to a recount.

As Cooper’s lead has swelled, McCrory has spent the last three weeks mounting challenges and protests in more than half of the state’s 100 counties. Boards of election in those counties, all of whom have Republican majorities appointed by the governor, have rejected his assertions of fraud and mismanagement in the election.

Last week the governor’s campaign and N.C. GOP appealed to the state board of elections, which also has a GOP majority. They asked the state board to overrule the local ones and take authority in investigating and deciding the governor’s election claims. The board declined to do that, saying individual challenges to voters – many of which have proven to be without merit – did not constitute the sort of widespread fraud and failure of the election process the governor alleges.

Now the governor, fresh from that rejection, has denied the state board of elections the outside counsel it requested in defending against a lawsuit from the conservative Civitas Institute.

That suit casts doubt on the election results the governor is himself fighting, arguing that same-day registration votes should be held until the addresses are verified.

Policy Watch’s Melissa Broughton wrote last week of the suit:

Based on evidence cited in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case, North Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, Civitas estimates in the lawsuit that there will be 3,000 invalid same-day registration ballots included in the State Board’s certification of election results on Nov. 29.

There were 97,753 same-day registrants in North Carolina with the following political party breakdown: Democrats, 34,484; Republicans, 33,550; Libertarian, 857; and Unaffiliated, 28,862.

Elections officials across the state have observed that it will be all but mathematically impossible for McCrory to make up his deficit to Cooper in the vote tally. The governor’s continued challenges and refusal to concede have given rise to a theory that he wants to contest the election and force it to be decided by the N.C. General Assembly. The Republican supermajority in the legislature has sparred with both McCrory almost since the beginning of his term but have also had hostile relations with Cooper.

GOP leaders in the legislature have said they would rather not have the election decided there, but have not ruled it out.

The state board meets tomorrow to hear complaints from the McCrory campaign and the N.C. GOP regarding ballots in Durham County.

The first hearing in the federal lawsuit over same-day registration is Friday.

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