- Associated Press - Monday, November 14, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Durham County’s elections board is defending itself against charges by Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign of wrongful or illegal conduct in the reporting late on election night of 94,000 votes cast in the heavily Democratic county.

The elections board released a blow-by-blow description of what happened after a lawyer for the state Republican Party this weekend filed a formal protest accusing the board of “malfeasance” in counting the ballots.

McCrory’s campaign team wants Durham County to manually recount each of the original paper ballots before reporting official results this week. Under state law, counties will complete a canvass of all their votes by Friday. The state elections board is scheduled to make the election results official late this month. Candidates could then appeal decisions they oppose to state courts. The Republican-dominated Legislature could ultimately determine the outcome if left unresolved by elections boards and judges.

Durham election officials say every step in counting the early votes was watched by Republican members of the county board, and later a state elections official. The county elections board followed all state and federal laws in its handling of an equipment problem discovered after polls closed Nov. 8, the board said in a statement late Sunday. The malfunction forced a time-consuming manual process before the results of the early voting could be reported to the state elections board, county officials said.

The county elections board “has done its best to make this process transparent so that the citizens of Durham and the state of North Carolina can have confidence that the 2016 election administration process in Durham County was fair, impartial and bi-partisan,” the statement said.

McCrory’s re-election effort was in the lead for much election night until the more than 94,000 votes from Durham County were reported shortly before midnight. That turned the advantage to Democrat and Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The governor’s race served as a referendum on the state’s recent rightward policy shift, with McCrory being the most high-profile supporter of a law limiting protections for LGBT people and restricting restroom access for transgender people. The law known as House Bill 2 prompted businesses and organizations to boycott North Carolina and relocate planned sporting events from the state.

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Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio.

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