Durham defends handling of 90,000 ballots in governor's race

Published: Nov. 12, 2016 at 3:31 PM EST
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Durham County's elections board is defending itself against charges by Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign of wrongful or illegal conduct in the reporting late on election night of 94,000 votes cast in the heavily Democratic county.

The elections board released a detailed description of what happened after a lawyer for the state Republican Party filed a formal protest accusing the board of "malfeasance" in counting the ballots. Durham election officials say every step in counting the early votes was watched by Republican members of the county board and later by a state elections official.

McCrory's re-election effort was in the lead for much election night last Tuesday until the 94,000 Durham County votes were reported shortly before midnight. That turned the advantage to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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A formal complaint that could affect North Carolina's tight governor's race demands 90,000 Durham County ballots be recounted by hand because tabulations were manually entered into the state election system by local officials on election night with "bleary eyes and tired hands."

A copy of the protest by attorney Thomas Stark was released Saturday by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign. The document shows it was filed Friday with the Durham elections board.

Stark says an error in machines that scan ballots caused memory cards to fail, prompting manual tabulation of results into the state system.

Roy Cooper's campaign responded to the filing in a statement Saturday.

"The McCrory campaign is now using NCGOP counsel to attack the Republican controlled board of elections in a desperate attempt to undermine election results. The facts are McCrory's appointees were the ones who administered the election and reported the results. Any claims of 'malfeasance' are nothing more than a desperate attempt by the McCrory campaign to overturn results of an election they have lost," said Cooper spokesman Jamal Little.

The original statewide count shows Democrat Roy Cooper ahead of McCrory by 5,000 votes. But tens of thousands of provisional ballots still must be examined. Counties must submit their final results by Nov. 18.