Counting is far from over for North Carolina governor’s race

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — All the counting was supposed to be all but over by Friday, but North Carolina’s too-close-to-call governor’s race remains nowhere near done, the State Board of Elections said Thursday.

Election officials say delays in receiving information from the Department of Motor Vehicles are causing many of the problems. They must comply with a federal judge’s order that the votes of people who signed up at DMV offices should be counted unless the agency can prove they refused to register.

Lots of formal local challenges also are postponing final totals as the State Board of Elections figures Thursday showed Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper leading McCrory by about 4,750 of the nearly 4.7 million votes already tallied.

By Friday, all 100 counties were supposed to finish deciding whether to count or set aside more than 60,000 mailed-in absentee and provisional ballots statewide, unseal the voters’ choices and send updated vote totals for dozens of races to the State Board of Elections.

More than half of the counties, including the highest-voting Wake County, held meetings Thursday to work through piles of ballots. By late Thursday, board spokesman Pat Gannon said “many, if not all” of the counties won’t finish before by Friday’s canvass deadline.

Counties are still working through formal election protests, supported by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign, that question early in-person vote totals and challenge whether some mailed-in ballots were forged by supporters of Democratic candidates.

Cooper declared himself the winner on election night, and said he expects the final certified results to favor him. Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter, noted Thursday that McCrory’s DMV is to blame for the latest delays.

Races for state auditor and a handful of legislative seats also remain too close to call.

Gannon said election officials also are waiting for the DMV to produce information about people who cast provisional ballots because they weren’t listed on voter rolls, despite saying that they registered or updated their registration at driver’s license offices since last year.

Gannon said it now may be this weekend before the process involving the DMV-related ballots would be completed. He didn’t have a number of how many such ballots there were statewide.

A pending lawsuit accuses the DMV of failing to send registration requests to the board. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said last month that these votes should count unless the DMV shows the voters affirmatively refused in writing to register.

State law allows counties to delay their Friday canvass meetings for “a reasonable time thereafter.” Any delays could push back a possible recount, which the trailing candidate can request if the margin is 10,000 votes or less. The state board is supposed to certify final results and declare winners Nov. 29, but courts or possibly the legislature could get involved if uncertainty remains beyond then.

The delays at the DMV forced the Wake County election board to delay the start of its decision-making on 6,800 provisional ballots they must review. Provisional ballots also are cast for other reasons, such as missing or mismatched information about a potential voter.

In a Raleigh warehouse where Wake County’s ballots are secured, board members spent Thursday morning signing off on counting more than 3,000 mail-in ballots and determining the choices on some damaged ballots.

“Every vote is always very important and we take our jobs very seriously,” board chairman Ellis Boyle said. “Is it important this time? Sure, but it’s important every time.”

Durham County’s election board scheduled a hearing Friday to consider any evidence showing its early-voting ballots could have been miscounted on election night after tired workers had to transcribe the results of some 94,000 votes due to equipment failure.

McCrory’s campaign also is trying to make the case for delays because, it says, allegations of rampant voter fraud must be investigated before results can be finalized. McCrory’s campaign announced late Wednesday protests were being filed in a dozen counties, and alleged similar fraud happened elsewhere.

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