It’s been three weeks since Election Day and North Carolinians still don’t know officially who their next governor will be. In that time, Democratic challenger Roy Cooper’s lead has doubled and numerous county-level voter challenges filed by the campaign of incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republicans have been rebuffed by the state’s GOP-controlled county elections boards. In some cases, the McCrory campaign falsely accused voters of being felons, incorrectly claimed voters cast ballots in multiple states, and lodged erroneous fraud claims against voters who died after casting early ballots. This week the N.C. State Board of Elections instructed counties to dismiss McCrory’s protests, though it did grant his request for a countywide recount of early votes as well as a recount of Election Day votes in one Durham County precinct. The recount is required to be completed on Dec. 5. Cooper currently has a lead of 10,263 votes, just over the 10,000-vote cutoff for a statewide recount, which McCrory requested before many counties had certified their results.
But there’s another twist in the saga that could help McCrory: a federal lawsuit filed by the conservative John W. Pope Civitas Institute challenging the more than 90,000 votes cast by residents who registered and voted on the same day. The group also filed a protest on those same grounds with the N.C. State Board of Elections. Civitas was founded and is largely funded by Art Pope, a GOP mega-donor who served as McCrory’s state budget director during the administration’s first two years.
Same-day registration (SDR) in North Carolina, which the legislature adopted in 2007 after a long campaign by voting rights advocates, allows residents to register and vote on the same day during the early voting period, which in this year’s general election lasted from Oct. 20 through Nov. 5. Voting rights groups embrace SDR because it increases voter turnout, remedies inaccurate voter rolls and helps geographically mobile lower-income citizens, young voters and voters of color.