BOLIVIA, NC (WECT) - Election protests are pending in New Hanover, Brunswick and Bladen counties, as county officials worked to review thousands of provisional ballots cast in the 2016 General Election.
Many counties are planning to postpone Friday's scheduled vote canvass, which is done to certify the election results. State elections officials are working to follow a court order, which requires collecting information about individuals who registered to vote at Department of Motor Vehicle offices.
In New Hanover County, the Board of Elections approved 954 of the 2,232 submitted provisional ballots, and also approved 564 absentee ballots. County Elections Chairman Jonathan Washburn said 190 ballots still need to be reviewed. Workers did not tabulate the approved ballots, so we do not know if they change the outcome of any county races. That won't be known until the vote canvass, which will likely be delayed until next Tuesday, November 22, because of the DMV registration issue.
An elections protest was also filed in New Hanover County, claiming two felons voted in the General Election. Washburn said a preliminary hearing must be scheduled to determine the validity of the protest before any canvass can take place.
Votes won't be canvassed until Tuesday, Nov. 22 in Brunswick County either, due to those DMV registration issues. Stuart Smith, the chairman of Brunswick County Board of Elections, said there are 98 ballots that can't be resolved until the state advises the counties on what to do. Those voters said they registered at the DMV but there is no record of that. Until the state advises the counties on what to do, votes can't be canvased. Brunswick County Elections Director Sara Knotts said the board approved 292 ballots and denied 377 of the 785 provisional ballots submitted.
Smith also said the Board of Elections received a protest from Brunswick County GOP Chairman Joe Agovino. The protest filing states there is someone who voted in North Carolina and another state, although the other state is not named. Smith said the process for resolving this begins with a preliminary hearing to see if there is probable cause. That has to happen before the votes are canvased.
Smith said there are 116 pending provisional ballots in Brunswick County, 16 did not have proof of residency. Those voters had until 5 p.m. Thursday to show proof of residency but Smith is not sure how many were resolved.
The Board of Elections in Bladen County did not review provisional ballots on Thursday. Bobby Lumley, the Chairman of the board, said the State Board of Elections directed workers not to review the provisional ballots until the DMV registration issue is resolved. The delay in Bladen County had nothing to do with the election protest filed by McCrae Dowless, the county Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor, according to Lumley.
Knotts added that of the provisional ballots approved in Brunswick County, Governor Pat McCrory gained 160 and Attorney General Roy Cooper gained 100 in their closely contested race. Libertarian candidate Lon Cecil gained 17. Board members also added 144 absentee ballots, with McCrory gaining 72, to 67 for Cooper and 5 for Cecil. Ten curbside ballots were also added in during the meeting, five going to McCrory and four to Cooper.
Elections workers in Columbus County reviewed 283 provisional ballots in a meeting Thursday. Board members approved 78 of those ballots, with Cooper gaining 40 votes and McCrory gaining 33. There were no absentee ballots added during the meeting.
Cooper led McCrory by 4,979 votes in the race for Governor after all precincts reported on Election Day.
In a news release Thursday, McCrory's campaign said there are election protests filed in 50 of North Carolina's 100 counties. In a separate news release, the State Board of Elections did not specify a number of protests filed with local county boards.
"With each passing day, we discover more and more cases of voting fraud and irregularities," Russell Peck, McCrory's Campaign Manager said in the news release. "We intend to make sure that every vote is properly counted and serious voter fraud concerns are addressed before the results of the election can be determined."
"Governor McCrory has set a new standard for desperation in his attempts to undermine the results of an election he lost," said Ford Porter, spokesman for Cooper's campaign. "The truth is this election was administered by Republicans appointed by Governor McCrory himself. Roy Cooper's margin of victory has grown since Election Day and will continue to grow stronger as final votes are tallied. Voters chose a new Governor, it's time for the McCrory campaign to accept it."