McCrory campaign expands ballot complaints to 52 counties

Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign announced late Thursday that 50 more election complaints have been filed – bringing the total number of counties with contested election results to 52 of the state’s 100 counties.

The latest complaints say that ballots were cast by people who were dead, were convicted felons or had already voted.

“With each passing day, we discover more and more cases of voting fraud and irregularities,” McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck said in a news release. “We intend to make sure that every vote is properly counted and serious voter fraud concerns are addressed before the results of the election can be determined.”

In Guilford County, the complaints say that nine voters cast ballots in another state, eight felons voted, and one dead person voted. All were filed by William Clark Porter, who is a committee chairman for the Guilford County Republican Party. He called on the county elections board to throw out the contested ballots.

The elections board held a preliminary hearing Thursday and voted 2-1 that there was “probable cause” for a full review, which is scheduled for Friday.

Wake County Republican Party leader Charles Hellwig filed complaints arguing that two dead people and three felons voted, and that 22 people voted in other states. The two dead people Hellwig listed died before early voting began but after the absentee voting period began. Under state law, ballots are still counted if a person voted but died before Election Day.

Other counties in the latest round of complaints include Mecklenburg, Durham, Orange, Johnston, Cabarrus and Gaston.

Cooper’s campaign said Thursday that the complaints are “unacceptable.”

“Gov. McCrory has set a new standard for desperation in his attempts to undermine the results of an election he lost,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a news release. “The truth is this election was administered by Republicans appointed by Gov. McCrory himself.”

McCrory’s campaign countered that the concerns show why “Cooper fought so hard against voter ID,” referring to the attorney general’s opposition to a photo ID requirement struck down by a federal court.

The new allegations are in addition to 12 election complaints the campaign said would be filed Thursday about absentee ballots.

Those complaints – at least five of which hadn’t been filed by Thursday evening – involve groups that received funding from the N.C. Democratic Party and assisted voters with filling out absentee ballots. Counties now must hold hearings on the complaints, and some counties have multiple complaints to review.

The expanded number of complaints will likely further delay the process of certifying election results, which have Democrat Roy Cooper leading McCrory by about 5,000 votes. Counties can’t finalize their election results until all complaints are resolved, according to a memo from the State Board of Elections.

Bladen County’s elections board is expected to meet Friday to review a complaint about hundreds of absentee ballots there. Those ballots appear to be filled out with assistance from the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, which received $2,500 from the N.C. Democratic Party for get-out-the-vote efforts.

It’s legal to help someone fill out an absentee ballot, but the person assisting must sign a disclosure on the ballot form. Several Improvement Association workers didn’t sign the disclosure even though they wrote in a write-in candidate on behalf of the voter.

The group’s president, Horace Munn, said Thursday that the workers – who receive a gas and food stipend for assisting absentee voters – weren’t aware of the requirement. Munn said all of the voters who received assistance are black.

“We’ve been targeted, and it’s really sad,” he said. “There was no malicious act.”

Munn said the group encouraged voters to support candidates endorsed on its sample ballots – including the write-in candidate for soil and water commissioner – but it helps voters cast absentee ballots regardless of their political preferences.

In many of the other 11 counties where Republicans have filed absentee ballot challenges, African-American groups received funding from the N.C. Democratic Party.

In Franklin County, the GOP complaint involves a group called the Franklin County PAC, which it does not accuse of wrongdoing. It says an N.C. GOP employee, Emily Weeks, wasn’t allowed to view the absentee ballots to check for potential problems. The complaint says that a Democratic Party payment to the PAC indicates a possible “scheme to operate an absentee voting mill.”

The North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, a nonprofit with ties to labor groups, said Thursday that the complaints appear to be racially motivated.

“The election challenges that have been filed are in areas where we have strong African-American political organizations,” executive director Melvin Montford said in a news release. “Calling these votes into question is an obvious effort to cast doubt on election results with no good reason to do so and disenfranchise black voters.”

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter