- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State law directs North Carolina’s election board to meet Tuesday to identify the winner of the close governor’s race and certify scores of other Election Day results, but that won’t happen. That’s because the panel faces multiple obstacles that will likely take a week or more to resolve.

Here’s a closer look at what’s led to the delays and what could happen before the results are squared away in the race between Republican incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper and several other close races.

WHERE WE STAND

Unofficial results Monday afternoon from the State Board of Elections had Cooper leading McCrory by about 9,700 votes from 4.7 million cast. On election night, Cooper was ahead by 5,100 votes, but his advantage has expanded as county boards began examining 60,000 provisional ballots, as well as absentee ballots. The votes of those duly registered were counted and added to the county totals.

The race for state auditor is also close, with Democratic incumbent Beth Wood leading Republican Chuck Stuber by about 4,000 votes. A few General Assembly races also still have very thin margins.

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WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?

County election boards were supposed to have finished counting and sent their results to the state by Nov. 18. But as of Monday, 13 counties had yet to finish their canvassing.

Things fell behind schedule for several reasons. Formal election protests were filed in at least 35 counties by voters - with support from McCrory’s campaign - that required more time for county boards to examine. The state board and Division of Motor Vehicles also had to accumulate records to determine whether to count provisional ballots of people who believed they had registered to vote at DMV offices but weren’t listed on voter rolls. The work complied with a federal judge’s ruling weeks before Election Day.

In addition, counties were awaiting a formal order from the state board, which they received Monday, and Thanksgiving-week scheduling also played into the delays.

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PROTEST PRONOUNCEMENTS

The largest batch of protests claims that early-voting ballots shouldn’t be counted if they were cast by voters who died before Election Day, are convicted felons who have yet to complete their punishments or cast ballots in multiples states. However, the number of ballots challenged for these kinds of reasons alone can’t change race outcomes.

Monday’s state board order directed counties to dismiss protests that only dispute voter eligibility. Board Chairman Grant Whitney wrote those should be considered after the election is complete.

This order doesn’t affect the largest protest in Durham County, where a Republican attorney demanded 94,000 votes be recounted by hand because an equipment malfunction forced local officials to transcribe results on voter tabulation machines to the state on election night. Nearly all the ballots were cast during early voting. The Durham board rejected the request. The decision is being appealed to the state board, which will hear the matter late Wednesday.

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GOING TO COURT

A federal judge scheduled a hearing Friday to consider a request by the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute to force the state board to delay finalizing vote totals until the addresses of everyone who registered to vote during early voting are verified.

The group says that would mean the state canvass couldn’t be concluded before Dec. 7. Voting-rights groups are fighting the Civitas lawsuit.

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HOW LONG COULD IT GO?

Multiple issues could send electoral uncertainty well into December.

Some counties that hadn’t done canvassing performed it Monday, including populous Mecklenburg, where results helped increase Cooper’s lead. The remaining counties are supposed to finish this week. McCrory or Stuber have said they want a statewide recount if results from the 100 counties show McCrory trailing by 10,000 votes or less. Such a recount could take a few days.

McCrory’s campaign suggested over the weekend the governor would withdraw his statewide recount request if a hand recount in Durham leads to the same result - essentially making Cooper the winner.

Cooper’s campaign says the uncertainty could end now if McCrory would just concede, saying McCrory can’t flip the tentative result. But McCrory’s campaign has said past problems with Durham elections and other protests alleging absentee voting fraud warrant continued scrutiny.

The law directing the state board to hold its canvass Tuesday does give it the option to delay the meeting until as late as Dec. 9. It’s unclear what would happen if all the counting isn’t completed by then.


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