State Politics

McCrory team: Election protests filed in 12 counties

Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign team announced Wednesday evening that election protests are being filed in 11 more counties, further clouding the outcome of a close race in which the Republican governor trails.

McCrory, who lags roughly 5,000 votes behind Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper with some ballots yet to be counted, had already seized on potential problems in Durham and Bladen counties in casting doubt on election results.

Now his re-election campaign alleges fraudulent absentee voting may have benefited Democratic candidates in more counties.

“These voter fraud concerns must be addressed before the results of the election can be finalized,” Russell Peck, McCrory’s campaign manager, said in a news release about the 11 new complaints.

Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter said there’s no evidence behind the allegations.

“It is absolutely shameful that Gov. McCrory would make these unfounded claims,” Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter said. “This is the worst kind of misinformation campaign meant to undermine the results of an election the Governor has lost.”

A protest has been filed in Halifax County and the additional complaints are being filed in Wake, Durham, Franklin, Vance, Edgecombe, Guilford, Northampton, Nash, Robeson and Warren counties, according to McCrory’s campaign.

Concerns about duplicate handwriting on mail-in ballots are at issue in Halifax County and Bladen County. The campaign also points to money flowing from the state Democratic Party to local groups in Bladen and the 11 other counties to promote voter turnout.

Earlier Wednesday, the results of a quick investigation by a forensic document examiner has found indications that at least 167 mail-in absentee ballots cast in Bladen County were written by seven people.

Time constraints prevented the examiner from looking at the entire batch of votes cast as straight Democratic Party tickets with similar handwriting. They included write-in ballots for a candidate named Franklin Graham. There are about 400 ballots with Graham’s name and about 275 envelopes under scrutiny.

Suspicions about the large number of write-in candidates for soil and water district supervisor prompted the Bladen County Board of Elections to begin investigating the matter prior to Election Day. The victor in that race, McCrae Dowless of Elizabethtown has filed a protest with the county board.

Some of the people whose handwriting is under examination were paid by a local community association that receives N.C. Democratic Party funding to encourage voter turnout. It is legal to help someone complete a ballot, but that must be disclosed on the ballot; few if any such disclosures were made. Similar handwriting was also seen in witnessing the absentee ballots.

The handwriting analysis was conducted by a Charlotte document examiner who prepared a report Tuesday for a Raleigh election law attorney who works for Republicans. Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign and post-election team have raised concerns the Bladen irregularities and questions over vote counting in Durham County.

The state Democratic Party’s executive director has said the Bladen issue is simply a probe into whether improper assistance was given in a local contest.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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