North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s Republicans really don’t like voters…. (More)
“Silly, small in number, poorly researched and often defamatory”
Democrat Roy Cooper has a 6,600 vote lead over incumbent Republican Pat McCrory. In fact, nobody seems to think there’s any way McCrory can catch up with the votes still out, and Cooper’s lead has actually been increasing.
The vote is close enough that McCrory could request and receive an automatic recount; that cannot happen until all the counties have certified their votes. But again, there’s almost no way a recount will change the result.
So in the best North Carolina Republican tradition, McCrory is making claims of widespread voter fraud, mostly involving absentee or early in-person voting in heavily African-American areas.
The State Board of Elections on Sunday rejected a request from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign to take over election protest reviews, instead setting a 10 a.m. Tuesday meeting to set guidelines for counties to address the complaints.
The McCrory campaign has been involved in filing dozens of elections protests regarding dead voters, felon voters, people voting twice and absentee ballot concerns – some of which were rejected by Republican-led county election boards on Friday. Campaign manager Russell Peck asked the state board to rule on all complaints.
County elections boards must rule on the complaints first before their decision can be appealed to the State Board of Elections. In a rare “emergency” meeting on Sunday, the state board didn’t rule out the possibility of reviewing election complaints – but it left the initial responsibility with county boards.
Peck argued that his proposal would “prevent inconsistent results among the counties and facilitate a quicker resolution.”
But Bob Hall of the nonprofit Democracy North Carolina says the change would have the opposite effect. “I think this would delay it a lot if they took all of those protests and took charge of them,” Hall said Sunday. “The fact-finding can be done better at the local level.”
But even Republican-led county election boards were not sold on the legitimacy of his concerns and rejected his calls for a recount. If each outstanding ballot were challenged, says Marc Elias, a lawyer for Cooper, the total number would not give the governor a victory.
“There is nothing that Gov. McCrory or his legal team are to be able to do, to undo what is just basic math,” Elias told reporters Friday, according to the New York Times.
Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told the Times that the challenges were “silly, small in number, poorly researched and often defamatory,” and that some could easily be debunked with even the barest of internet research.
Worth noting: a whole lot of the 2016 election campaign “could easily be debunked with even the barest of internet research,” unless your search turned up fake news.
“The fact that there are a number of protests … at least make it an issue”
Instead, he and his legal team are baselessly alleging that the results were tainted by fraud, petitioning election boards to review the results and determine their validity. McCrory is not so obtuse as to think he can actually overtake his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, in raw votes. His strategy is more insidious: He seems intent on delaying the formal declaration of a winner – and delegitimizing the voting process – in order to let the Republican-dominated legislature ignore the true result and re-install McCrory as governor for another four years.
McCrory can, and probably will, still ask for a statewide recount. But he must know that a recount will not close such a sizable gap. His real goal appears to be to delegitimize the results to such an extent that the state legislature – which holds a Republican supermajority – can step in and select him as the winner. North Carolina state law states that when “a contest arises out of the general election,” and that contest pertains “to the conduct or results of the election,” the legislature “shall determine which candidate received the highest number of votes” and “declare that candidate to be elected.” By alleging fraud, mishandling of ballots, and irregular vote-counting, McCrory is laying the groundwork for the legislature to proclaim that a “contest” has arisen as to “the conduct or results of the election.” At that point, it can step in, assert that McCrory received “the highest number” of legitimate votes, and “declare [him] to be elected.”
Stern notes that the North Carolina statute in question declares the legislature’s decision to be “not reviewable” in court. But election law expert Richard Hasen says a federal court could still intervene:
Whether or not that is true in North Carolina state courts, the NC legislature through a statute cannot divest the federal courts of jurisdiction to consider U.S. constitutional claims.
If there is clear evidence both that Roy Cooper got more votes in North Carolina, with no plausible basis to claim that fraud infected the result (and by all indications so far, both of these facts are true), it could well be both a Due Process and Equal Protection Clause violation for the North Carolina legislature on a partisan basis to consider a “contest” and overturn the results and hand them to Pat McCrory. There are cases where federal courts have gotten involved in these kinds of ugly election disputes (think Roe v. Alabama, Bush v. Gore). But a brazen power grab without a plausible basis for overturning the results of a democratically conducted election? I expect the federal courts would take a very close look at such a thing.
But Gov. McCrory and North Carolina Republicans would surely appeal any federal court decision in Cooper’s favor, and guess who’s waiting to appoint a new U.S. Supreme Court Justice? So I don’t think the federal courts will be much help.
“I’m not saying it won’t happen”
It’s not just Cooper’s victory that the state’s Republicans want to overturn. North Carolinians also voted to remove state supreme court justice Robert Edmunds, and replaced him with Michael Morgan, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority on the court. In 2015, the state legislature tried to keep Morgan from running by changing state supreme court elections to no-opponent “retention” votes, but a state appellate court overturned that law. If Gov. McCrory loses his recount bid, the legislators’ new plan is to expand the court from 7 to 9 justices and let Gov. McCrory appoint the two justices before he leaves office:
As last week ended, speculation grew in Raleigh that Republicans in the legislature may, in the course of a special session to address hurricane relief, also increase membership on the state Supreme Court to a chief justice and eight associate justices.
That would be a boost of two, who would be appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, and he would naturally follow the wishes of lawmakers to name very conservative Republican judges to the posts.
And why this all of a sudden? Because in the recent election, incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican, was defeated by Judge Mike Morgan, a judge supported by Democrats and likely member of the court’s liberal group. With Morgan, that group would have four members to the conservatives’ three.
Asked about the plan yesterday, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore gave a non-denial-denial:
I don’t want to comment on rumors, but I appreciate the questions. We haven’t planned to do anything along those lines at this point. I’m not saying it won’t happen. I’m not saying it will happen. Frankly, we have not discussed it in our caucus. I know there was a media account, a quasi-media account, last week claiming that, but the truth is that is not an issue we have discussed in our caucus.
Note: “that is not an issue we have discussed in our caucus” means merely that they haven’t had any formal meetings. Given that Gov. McCrory signed HB2 – the anti-LGBT law that also declared the state’s civil rights statute unenforceable in court, and barred cities and counties from raising the minimum wage – less than 12 hours after the bill was introduced in the state house … the fact that they haven’t yet formally discussed the court-packing plan in their caucus is meaningless.
The media has certainly covered the constitutional provision that gives the General Assembly the authority to weigh in on that, but given that the elections are not finalized at this point, I think further comment would be premature.
But he does want yet another round of voter suppression laws, to make sure Democrats never get this close again:
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said Monday that the legislature could revisit voter ID requirements and other election laws in the wake of complaints filed with help from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign.
During a news conference announcing House Republican leaders for next year’s legislative session, Moore was asked about the complaints filed amid a tight governor’s race – making claims that dead people and convicted felons voted in this year’s election.
“The fact that there are a number of protests related to the election at least make it an issue that it’s something that needs to be dealt with,” Moore told reporters.
Read that carefully. “There are a number of protests” means merely that Gov. McCrory refuses to accept an electoral defeat. But Speaker Moore thinks that alone means Democrats’ voting rights are “something that needs to be dealt with.”
With voting rights opponent Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General, Tarheel Republicans won’t meet any interference from the Department of Justice. They’ll just keep yelling “voter fraud!” and tightening voting laws until they manufacture an electorate where no Democrat can possibly win.
And if a Democrat should happen to squeak past all that, well, just “protest” the results until time runs out … and let the GOP-dominated legislature declare the Republican winner.
Of course that’s only in North Carolina …
… so far….
Good day and good nuts