Dome: Coleman campaign concerned about uncounted provisional ballots

From staff reportsNovember 14, 2012 

Linda Coleman’s campaign to become lieutenant governor has turned from an effort to convince voters to choose her to trying to convince local boards of elections they should count more provisional ballots.

Her campaign produced a list of 500 voters Wednesday who cast provisional ballots that are in the “not counted” pile but which the campaign says are registered voters who voted in their home counties.

The campaign has a team plowing through the list of more than 51,000 people who cast provisional ballots, looking for those whose votes they think are about to be improperly thrown out.

Coleman, a Democrat, is trailing Republican Dan Forest in the race, but she continues a full-on press to count votes that weren’t part of the Election Day tally. She has closed the gap by more than 1,000 votes since election night, with some counties rolling in counts of mail-in and provisional ballots. According to the last unofficial count, she trails by 10,309 votes.

Forest put out a call for volunteers to observe vote counts in every county.

Kevin LeCount, who is advising Coleman’s campaign, said there may be thousands more provisional ballots cast by registered voters that local boards are on the verge of rejecting.

The campaign on Wednesday asked the State Board of Elections for copies of the envelopes that contain rejected provisional ballots, and reports from each local board of elections on why they approved or rejected them.

Campaign workers are wondering whether some ballots are being kicked out because of last names spelled with or without hyphens, or some other explainable difference from the poll book.

“We can’t tell if we don’t look at the envelope,” said LeCount, political director at the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles rejected the campaign’s request for information from voter registration applications that came through the DMV. The campaign wanted the information by Wednesday, a deadline the DMV said it couldn’t make.

Coleman is under heavy time pressure because the counties must finish their vote counts Friday.

Howard to challenge Stam

A contest is emerging for the No. 2 spot in the N.C. House. Rep. Julia Howard, a 12-term veteran and committee chairwoman, will challenge House GOP leader Paul “Skip” Stam for the speaker pro tem job.

Howard cited her previous leadership experience as majority whip, and said she would use the position to help orient the large incoming freshman class. “I have no agenda,” the Mocksville Republican said.

Howard also made a point to say she has no interest in running for House speaker in 2014, when Thom Tillis is expected to relinquish the position under self-imposed term limits. “I will be totally focused,” she said.

Stam, an Apex Republican, is considered a possible speaker candidate if Republicans keep the majority in two years. He ran unsuccessfully against Tillis in 2010. The race will likely color the next two-year session as Republicans jockey behind the scenes.

The House Republican Caucus will meet Saturday in Raleigh. A vote on speaker and other leadership positions is possible, though some may be delayed until December. Howard said her candidacy does not suggest that there is division within the caucus about its future direction.

Starnes throws hat in

The Stam-Howard fight isn’t the only power struggle going on in the House.

A third candidate has emerged for Republican majority leader: Rep. Edgar Starnes.

Starnes, a nine-term lawmaker and committee chairman from Hickory, said he is seeking the post regardless of whether the Republican caucus decides to split the job – as it will discuss in Saturday’s meeting.

If it is split, Starnes said he would make a bid for the day-to-day operations role, managing the caucus and running the Republican agenda on the floor.

“I’ve seen a lot of leaders come and a lot of leaders go, and I think I have an idea of what the caucus needs and I think that my leadership style will best suit the members,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Two other prominent Republican lawmakers are seeking the majority leader post: Ruth Samuelson, the current majority whip, and David Lewis, a committee chairman and Republican National Committee member. Samuelson wants to run the big-picture end of the job and Lewis the operations end, setting up a possible contest with Starnes if the job is split.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner and John Frank

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