Two weeks after Election Day, North Carolina’s governor race is still far from being settled – and the race is getting increasingly hostile.
Incumbent Pat McCrory, a Republican, is trailing Democrat Roy Cooper by about 6,600 votes out of 4.7 million cast, according to unofficial results, and the deficit is growing as provisional and absentee ballots are tallied.
The race was too close to call on Election Day, although that didn’t stop Cooper from claiming victory.
Cooper hasn’t backed down from the claim since then, and on Monday he announced the leaders of his transition team. He also debuted a website where people can submit resumes for leadership positions in his government.
“It’s 40 days until I take the oath of office,” Cooper said in a news release. “It would be irresponsible to wait any longer to tackle the issues we campaigned on across the state.”
But McCrory hasn’t given up – his team lodged ballot challenges in 50 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, in some cases alleging votes were fraudulently cast by dead people and convicted felons. But some of the challenges were thrown out because of a lack of evidence.
“Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons?” McCrory spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement on Monday. “It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win. Instead of insulting North Carolina voters, we intend to let the process work as it should to ensure that every legal vote is counted properly.”
While some incidents of voter fraud may exist, there is no proof of an extensive problem that could swing the election McCrory’s way, Ferrel Guillory, founder of the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina, told Business Insider.
“The evidence of fraud is in the tens of cases, not in the thousands of cases,” Guillory said. “It’s hard to see from the evidence on the table that there is a major problem with the conduct of the election.”
McCrory can call for a statewide recount if his final deficit is within 10,000 votes of Cooper.
Even if he loses, there’s still a bizarre way McCrory could keep his job. North Carolina law allows the state legislature to step in and make the final call on “contested elections” – essentially allowing lawmakers to decide which candidate got the most votes.
Whether McCrory can prove enough voter fraud to reach that point – and whether the Republican-controlled legislature would actually flip the election McCrory’s way – has been a topic of speculation in the Tar Heel State, but for now the possibility is safely in the distance.
“It would really be a blow to the system for the legislature to decide this one,” Guillory told Business Insider. “The chances are relatively slim, as they ought to be.”
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