Almost A Month Later, North Carolina Governor's Race Remains Undecided

Dec 3, 2016
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is still one race from last month's election that has yet to be decided - the governor of North Carolina. The incumbent, Republican Pat McCrory, trails his Democratic challenger, Roy Cooper, by 10,000 votes. But McCrory has refused to concede. This weekend, there is going to be a recount in one of the state's biggest counties. We're joined now by Jeff Tiberii of member station WUNC to tell us more. Jeff, thanks so much for joining us.

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: Of course. Great to be here.

MARTIN: So 10,000 votes would seem to be a significant margin. Why has Governor McCrory refused to concede?

TIBERII: Well, it's a relatively small margin considering, of the 4.7 million ballots that were cast, these two are now separated by less than a percent. What's happened in the weeks since the election is that the McCrory campaign has made dozens of allegations asserting that there's widespread fraud here in North Carolina. However, they have offered very little, if any, evidence to substantiate these claims.

MARTIN: So there's going to be a partial recount in Durham County this weekend. Why there? And what has triggered that?

TIBERII: So back on election night, McCrory was actually leading by about 50,000 votes just before midnight, and then there was this late surge of votes that came in from Durham County, and those hadn't been counted. And it put Cooper, the Democrat, over the top. Durham is one of the largest counties in this state. It has a large population of African-Americans, and it voted for Cooper by a 4-1 margin. So after this happened, Republicans quickly raised questions about the whole late tally in Durham, asserting that there was impropriety or malfeasance.

And the local board of elections came in - and there's a majority of Republicans on that board - they explained that there was an issue with a few of the memory cards. And these are cards that are used in electronic voting machines. Those cards, some of them, had reached capacity. So votes, in turn, on election night, were tabulated by hand. So the local Republican board members said it was essentially a technical issue. But McCrory and many of his supporters called for a recount or a partial recount in Durham, and that's now what is happening.

MARTIN: But on the other side of the equation, North Carolina voted for Donald Trump on election night. The state also sent Republican Senator Richard Burr back to Congress for another term. So McCrory is the only one, who is also a Republican, as we said, who came up short.

TIBERII: That's right, Michel. Trump and Burr won by comfortable margins here. Mccrory didn't do so well. Part of that is because he came under national criticism in the months last spring and summer after he signed House Bill 2. That, of course, is the law that bans any municipality from passing a nondiscrimination ordinance and also requires that people use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate.

McCrory, additionally, faced kind of a smaller scope of scrutiny for a proposed toll road outside of Charlotte, and that's where he was mayor for 14 years prior to becoming governor reminding us yes, that all politics are local. Also, from a historical context, North Carolina has been doing this - splitting tickets - for a while. This marks the 13th election dating back to 1968. In that time, voters here have selected a Republican president and a Democratic governor seven different times.

MARTIN: Has anyone suggested another motivation for the governor's aggressive efforts in this area?

TIBERII: It's only natural to wonder here in North Carolina about whether or not this is going to be a foundation, a thinly veiled foundation or some sort of foundation, for lawmakers to go back in and take a crack at adjusting, again, state election law. They did it in 2013. They mandated photo ID. They reduced early voting, and they eliminated same day registration. These are voting provisions that are used predominantly by African-American and Latino voters. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia struck it down. They ruled it unconstitutional and said that lawmakers acted with surgical precision in going after minority groups. So we will see if this, indeed, is another attempt for lawmakers here to attempt to change some of the regulations that guide folks who vote.

MARTIN: That's Jeff Tiberii. He's capitol bureau chief from our station WUNC. He was kind enough to join us from Durham, N.C. Jeff, thanks so much for speaking with us.

TIBERII: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.