By Danielle Battaglia
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory requested a recount Tuesday in his race with Democrat Roy Cooper, and a federal lawsuit was filed Monday asking the courts to issue a restraining order against more than 90,000 ballots cast across North Carolina.
"With many outstanding voters yet to be counted for the first time, legal challenges, ballot protests and voter fraud allegations, we must keep open the ability to allow the established recount process to ensure every legal vote is counted properly," Russell Peck, McCrory's campaign manager, stated in a news release.
Results from the State Board of Elections on Tuesday showed Cooper leading by 6,550 votes, although Democratic Party leaders have said that number should be closer to 8,500.
Ever since the polls closed on Nov. 8, Cooper has claimed victory, but McCrory has not conceded. Many people assumed he would ask for a recount.
Meanwhile, the Civitas Center for Law and Freedom President Francis De Luca asked for a federal judge to issue a restraining order to prevent the ballots of unverified same-day-registered voters from being counted. Civitas is a conservative think-tank in Raleigh.
Civitas' lawsuit contends that the State Board of Elections' plan to certify the election results by Tuesday does not allow the required 30-day wait to verify the eligibility of same-day registrants who cast ballots during early voting.
Kimberly Reynolds, the executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, said McCrory's request for a recount serves "to undermine the results of the election they lost. Make no mistake, Gov.-elect Roy Cooper won this race, and we look forward to working with his administration to build a better North Carolina."
Cooper has appointed members to his transition team and developed a website for his role as governor, even without McCrory's concession.
"This is nothing but a last-ditch effort from Governor McCrory to delay and deny the results of this election," Trey Nixon, Cooper's campaign manager, said in a news release. "Roy Cooper leads by 8,569 votes -- a number that is growing daily as counties finalize election results. We are confident that a recount will do nothing to change the fact that Roy Cooper has won this election."
Democratic lawmakers have spent the past 48 hours blaming McCrory for delaying local election boards from certifying voting results. Numerous protests filed in 34 counties cite individuals as having voted twice, having been convicted of a felony or as being dead.
On Monday, Democrats across the state held news conferences to urge McCrory to concede.
In response, Republican leaders have urged patience as votes are counted.
"All votes have yet to be counted in the closest gubernatorial election in state history," state Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) said in a news release. "Instead of making foolish statements to the media, Mr. Cooper and my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle should show more concern about conducting a 'fair and honest election' which appears to be clouded by reports of double, dead and felon voters that could have tipped the balance in this election."
Rucho said the margin between the votes is so narrow that it leaves room for human or computer error.
That margin could shrink if a judge does block the same-day registration votes from being counted. More than 100,000 North Carolina residents filed registration applications the day they voted.
"Legitimate voters should never have their votes cancelled by illegitimate voters," De Luca said in a news release published Tuesday on the Civitas Institute's website. "The State Board of Elections should examine every ballot cast via same-day registration to verify that every vote cast is genuine and legitimate.
"To count ballots without verification of same-day registration information discriminates by treating one class of voters differently from another," De Luca said. "Furthermore, this calls into question the outcomes of close elections such as the one we are still in the middle of in North Carolina."
New election rules approved in 2013 ended same-day voter registration, but in July a federal court overturned the law that included that language, allowing same-day registration during early voting that ran from Oct. 27 through Nov. 5.
State law requires county boards of elections to mail a notification to an applicant's address, usually within one business day, and then to wait 15 days to see if the U.S. Postal Service returns that notification as undeliverable. If it does, a second notice is sent out and again the board waits 15 days. If that notice also comes back undeliverable, the board is required to decline the application.
De Luca -- represented by attorneys Karl Bowers Jr. of Columbia, S.C. and Joshua Brian Howard of Raleigh-- contends that by following those guidelines the state board should not certify the results until after Dec. 5,, 30 days from the last day of the early voting period.
His lawsuit asks a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the ballots cast by people who voted the same day they registered and then order any ballots cast by voters with declined applications be removed from the election results.
The lawsuit names as defendants the State Board of Elections; the board's executive director, Kim Westbrook Strach; and board members A. Grant Whitney, Rhonda Amoroso, Joshua Malcolm, James Baker and Maja Kricker.
"Today's lawsuit by Civitas is just the latest effort to disenfranchise legally registered voters," Marc Elisa, an attorney representing Cooper for North Carolina, said in a news release. "Instead of attacking North Carolina voters and undermining our democratic process, Governor McCrory needs to accept his defeat and concede."
It's unclear if the state elections board still plans to certify votes by Tuesday. Local boards were given until Nov. 18 to certify votes, but protests filed around the state delayed that.
The state board met Tuesday to provide guidance to local boards facing these protests. The Associated Press reported the state board told the counties to keep counting the votes and state officials would tackle complaints if it appeared statewide results were affected.In Guilford County, four protests have been filed by two members of local Republican organizations naming eight voters as being felons and nine as having voted in two states.
Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said having specific people singled out as having illegally voted is very unusual.
The county board met Monday to hear evidence for each allegation but recessed its meeting until 3 p.m. next Monday to wait for directions from the state board.
(c)2016 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)