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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

 

By hook or by crook

by Tom Sullivan


Outgoing NC Gov. Pat McCrory, via NCDOT Communications.

North Carolina did not see a Karl Rove-like meltdown on election night when results showed Gov. Pat McCrory losing his reelection bid to Attorney General Roy Cooper by 5,000 votes. The meltdown has been more of a slow burn. McCrory as refused to concede, even as absentee and provisional vote tallies show the margin against him widening.

Civitas, the Art Pope-funded think tank, as filed suit in federal court to delay final certification of results while the state verifies the addresses of over 90,000 same-day registrants.

McCrory's team, meanwhile, is alleging widespread voting irregularities:

Rather than throwing in the towel, McCrory is instead throwing around wild and unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud across the state. The governor is claiming that results in half of North Carolina’s 100 counties were tainted by irregularities, but some of those claims have already been dismissed by county election boards. The result is close enough to trigger a recount, which McCrory officially requested today, but past recounts in close North Carolina elections have not produced any significant changes in vote tallies.

Nonetheless, McCrory’s team is accusing Cooper of winning by illicit means and trying to cover up evidence of a supposedly fraudulent victory. “Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons?” one McCrory flack said in a statement. “It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win.”
Salon's Simon Malloy notes that in the same election, Donald Trump won North Carolina by 4 points and Republican Sen. Richard Burr won reelection by 6 points. Being "champion of the country’s most notorious anti-LGBTQ law" had nothing to do with McCrory's loss, of course. But if Roy Cooper's team somehow managed to manipulate results to take out McCrory alone, now that's some targeting. I'd want to hire them.

McCroy's end game, rumor has it, may be to sow enough doubt long enough to create a legitimacy crisis that would trigger the involvement of the GOP-controlled legislature in settling the election. The News and Observer says it's not that simple:
Yes, N.C. lawmakers can declare a winner, a power given to them both by the N.C. Constitution, which says the General Assembly can settle “contested” state races, but also a 2005 law cited by the New York Times and Slate that says losers in Council of State races can appeal the results to the legislature.

[...]

As for whether such a decision now could be reviewed by courts, here’s what that 2005 N.C. statute actually says: “The decision of the General Assembly in determining the contest of the election pursuant to this section may not be reviewed by the General Court of Justice.” According to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, the “General Court of Justice” is the entire N.C. court system, which includes Appellate, Superior and District courts.
That wouldn't stop the federal courts from jumping in, says Rick Hasen (Election Law Blog):
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.
McCrory doesn't have to be Catholic to throw a Hail Mary.