As Republican-led county election boards began to reject GOP complaints, Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign said Nov. 18 it expected the rulings to be “immediately appealed to the State Board of Elections.”
Ten days later, the state board has received only two appeals – both challenging decisions by the Durham County Board of Elections. In those appeals, Republicans are seeking a hand recount and an opportunity to inspect absentee ballot envelopes for signs of fraud.
But without more appeals, Republican claims of voter fraud and irregularities in more than 50 counties appear to have fizzled. McCrory trails Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by about 9,700 votes.
As of Monday evening, only three counties had not yet held hearings on the complaints, which include allegations that ineligible felons and dead people voted, and that some voters cast ballots in multiple states. Hearings in those counties are scheduled for this week.
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The McCrory campaign had announced weeks ago that its allies would be filing complaints in 53 of North Carolina’s 100 counties due to “serious voter fraud concerns.” In addition to the concerns about ineligible voters, some complaints argued that community groups funded by the N.C. Democratic Party were involved in “harvesting” absentee ballots.
But many of those complaints were never filed. For 19 counties named by the McCrory campaign, state elections officials didn’t receive notice of any complaints. County boards are required to send copies of all complaints to the State Board of Elections. County election directors in five of those counties confirmed that they’d never received anything from Republicans.
Asked Monday if more appeals were in the works, N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse didn’t directly answer and pointed instead to an election complaint under investigation in Bladen County.
In Bladen, a group with funding from the Democratic Party assisted absentee voters in filling out their ballots but failed to sign a required disclosure that it had assisted.
“The party is going to be vigilant in trying to figure out what happened in Bladen County,” Woodhouse said. “Bladen County is likely a criminal matter where somebody needs to go to jail.”
A spokesman for the State Board of Elections said Monday that the Bladen issue remains under investigation. It will not be on the agenda when the board meets Wednesday to discuss Durham County complaints.
Woodhouse also said the GOP is looking ahead at efforts to make improvements for future elections. “It’s going to be incumbent on both parties to find some solutions to very difficult issues that have come out in the last month,” he said.
Voters challenged by mistake
In the counties that have held hearings on Republican complaints, some voters were ruled ineligible – often because they are serving an active felony sentence or died after voting early – while other complaints were thrown out.
The McCrory campaign remained silent Monday on reports showing that election complaints included false accusations of voter fraud, but the N.C. Republican Party defended the complaints.
A number of the 43 voters accused of being ineligible felons turned out to be cases of mistaken identity. Several other voters accused were serving a misdemeanor sentence, which does not affect voting rights. Republican-led county elections board have dismissed most of the inaccurate complaints.
The nonprofit Democracy North Carolina, which has urged McCrory to halt the protests, analyzed criminal records and found that 18 of the 43 – nearly half – were wrongfully accused of being felons ineligible to vote.
And in Guilford County, WXII News 12 reported last week that several voters there had been wrongly accused of voting in multiple states – including a 101-year-old World War II veteran who lives in a nursing home.
McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz did not respond to inquiries about the reports last week. But Woodhouse defended the complaints.
“We have no apologies to make, and we will keep doing this,” Woodhouse said. “Nobody has been disenfranchised or, to my knowledge, inconvenienced.”
He added that it’s difficult to obtain records that don’t result in a few mistakes. “If the standard is that you have to be 100 percent correct or you can never raise a question, that is a standard that is unreasonable and can never be met,” he said.
Democracy North Carolina said in a news release that McCrory “and his allies are exposing themselves to charges of slandering voters.”
The N.C. Democratic Party is holding news conferences Tuesday to call on McCrory to apologize. Asked Monday if the campaign planned to apologize to the voters named by mistake, Diaz did not respond.