The Republican-led elections board in Halifax County on Friday threw out two complaints filed with help from Gov. Pat McCrory’s re-election campaign.
The Halifax complaints were among dozens filed across the state contesting absentee ballots and the eligibility of voters who the complaints said were dead, convicted felons, or voters who’d cast ballots in other states. The complaints come as election officials review provisional and absentee ballots in a tight governor’s race where McCrory trails Democratic challenger Roy Cooper by about 5,000 votes.
Wake County’s Board of Elections also threw out a complaint Friday morning that several voters had illegally cast ballots in multiple states.
McCrory’s campaign said it expects immediate appeals of the decisions.
In Halifax, the board voted unanimously that there was “no probable cause” for the complaints there. Like all county elections boards, the Halifax board has two Republican appointees and one Democrat.
The Halifax complaints were filed by Romeo Johnson Myrick of Littleton, a vice-chairman of the local Republican Party, and listed McCrory campaign staffer Jeff Hauser as the witness who found the potential problems.
The complaint said Hauser viewed absentee ballots and found that two people had served as witnesses signing multiple absentee ballots. Myrick argued that the pattern of witness signatures was similar to a case in Bladen County in which a political group helped voters fill out absentee ballots but failed to sign a required disclosure that they’d assisted.
Myrick arrived to Friday’s meeting after his complaints had been dismissed — he said he’d been told the meeting would begin at 11 a.m., and the issue was discussed at 10. A News & Observer reporter who called the elections office Thursday was told the 10 a.m. start time.
“I drove out here for nothing,” he told a reporter. “I just believe one person should have one vote.”
In both Bladen, Halifax and 10 counties where the McCrory campaign said complaints would be filed, an African-American political action committee received funding from the N.C. Democratic Party to conduct get-out-the-vote efforts.
But Halifax election board chairwoman Sandra Partin rejected the comparison to Bladen. “Whatever happened in Bladen County has nothing to do with Halifax County,” she said. “That is irrelevant. I think Bladen County is involving a write-in candidate. We don’t have any write-ins — we have nothing.”
The three board members agreed that serving as a witness on multiple voters’ absentee ballots is legal.
“I could see where no election laws had been violated,” board member Clarence Pender said. “There are just statements, but not an ounce of proof or anything that we can go on.”
The board also rejected a second complaint filed by Myrick that said a convicted felon had voted in Scotland Neck.
“You can’t just say, ‘I think you’re a convicted felon and you don’t have the right to vote,’ you’ve got to have some proof to back that up,” Partin said.
Under state law, Myrick has the option to appeal the county board’s decision to the State Board of Elections.
“We expect these decisions will be immediately appealed to the State Board of Elections by the petitioners,” said Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for the McCrory campaign. “The evidence of this voter fraud must be taken seriously if we are going to have any faith in our system.”
Cooper’s campaign issued a statement praising the decisions.
“These rulings make clear that these complaints are nothing more than dishonest efforts from the McCrory campaign to undermine the results of an election they have lost,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said. “These desperate attempts to disenfranchise voters must stop. It’s time for Gov. McCrory to accept that Roy Cooper is the clear winner of this election.”
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat, attended Friday’s Halifax elections meeting and said the board made the right call.
“It’s obviously a coordinated effort by Pat McCrory as he is going down in defeat to find some kind of creative ways to reverse his defeat,” Butterfield said of the complaints. “There’s a direct correlation between the counties that were selected for challenges and the active participation of black political action committees. This is targeting the African-American community and their participation in the election.”