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Sunday, December 04, 2016


A GOP thing: Winning with fewer popular votes

by Tom Sullivan

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory narrowly lost the popular vote to Democratic opponent AG Roy Cooper in his reelection bid last month. But since it was no impediment to Donald Trump winning the White House, why should losing the popular vote prevent Republicans from declaring McCrory the winner? That seems to be the strategy behind the ongoing Republican challenges to finalizing the gubernatorial election in the Tar Heel State.

This, after all, was the goal of GOP-led gerrymandering that targeted the North Carolina's "African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The “most extreme gerrymanders in modern history” led to a situation in which "Democrats got 51 percent of the 2012 vote for the United States House of Representatives, which translated to only four of the state’s 13 congressional seats." Federal courts have since ordered the congressional districts redrawn. But since the governorship is a statewide race, not a district one, other methods for winning by losing must be found.

At the order of the NC State Board of Elections, Durham County is recounting over 90,000 votes it counted late on Election Day after software delays. The late tally tipped the race from McCrory to Cooper. Three Republicans on the State Board ruled that counting votes late constituted "an irregularity." Durham faces a 7 p.m. Monday deadline for completing the process it started Saturday. The Atlantic's David Graham describes the recount as "vaguely Kafkaesque." No one expects the recount to affect the lead Cooper has held since election night. Graham writes:

Since then, Cooper’s lead has remained consistent, and has even grown a bit, standing at a little more than 10,000 votes. State Republicans have gone through a series of steps to try to prevent Cooper from being certified as the race’s winner. In counties around the state, Republicans filed protests and challenges, alleging ineligible voters and irregularities in counting. Nearly all of those were thrown out, and those decisions were not appealed. But the situation in Durham County has remained unresolved.
That's not all. The Art Pope-backed Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, filed a lawsuit to delay counting ballots voted by same-day registrants under address verification is complete.

“I think this is a conscious, deliberate effort to gain a litigation advantage in federal court by the McCrory campaign,” said elections law attorney Michael Weisel, a Democrat:
The elections board decided shortly after Election Day that it would hire outside attorneys for any lawsuit involving the election results. The board typically is represented by the attorney general’s office, but the board decided that would pose a potential conflict of interest because Cooper, the attorney general, is a candidate.

State law requires the governor’s office to sign off on hiring of outside attorneys. Stephens [McCrory's attorney] denied three of the four attorneys requested by the State Board of Elections; he did not provide a reason but had raised conflict-of-interest questions before making the decision.
The State Board of Elections will have to make do with two in-house lawyers already working on other election matters.

Finally, the NCSBE yesterday heard and rejected an election challenge brought by Republicans over a Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District race the complainant won. (Shades of Donald Trump again.) InsightUS live-blogged the meeting convened to consider rejecting 400 African Americans ballots gathered in what Republicans are alleging was a massive absentee ballot fraud effort involving paid canvassers. InsightUS snarkily described the effort to smear the Bladen County Improvement Association as a kind of "ACORN-lite affair." InsightUS has both the blog and some background:
4:23 PM EST: Board member Malcolm (D) now grilling McCrory atty Knight regarding why the heck the protestor, Dowless, is not present. “Does Mr. Dowless, the individual who brought all these people here today…does your client intend to answer questions today without being immunized?” Atty Knight: “He is present, and will testify today unless advised otherwise by his counsel. He is not waiving his 5th Amendment right to not incriminate himself.”
Wow. Just wow. Dowless is now taking the stand.
4:25 PM EST: Malcolm questioning Dowless: “Is it true that you are the apparent winner in the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District contest?” “Yessir.” “Then why are you bringing this protest?” “I just think it ain’t right.”
4:29 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “Who informed you of these ‘irregularities?'” “A feller named Steve.” “Steve who?” GOP atty Branch objects: ‘Steve’ Roberts is an attorney with the McCrory committee, and also a member of Mr. Dowless’s legal defense, therefore, Dowless/Steve information is attorney/client privilege. Atty Branch is throwing one objection after another: “Mr Dowless, do not reveal any content of your conversations with Steve Roberts.”
4:35 PM EST: Malcolm (D): Mr. Dowless, are you familiar with your protest? How do you know the assertions in it to be true?” “Well, sir, it come out in the papers.”
4:37 PM EST: Dowless takes the 5th regarding who provided him with the campaign finance report documents appended to his protest filing.
4:47 PM EST: Whoa. Board member Malcolm: “Do you know Caitlyn Croom?” (one of the get-out-the-vote canvassers charged with wrongdoing in Dowless’s protest).” “Yessir, I know her. She helped me with my campaign.” “Did you pay her?” “Yessir, I paid her for bringing in completed absentee ballot forms.”
This is starting to become bizarre. Sounds like Dowless, who filed a complaint that GOTV canvassers were harvesting ballots in Bladen County, was himself paying some of these same people to…what? Yeah: harvest ballots. And taking the 5th to avoid prosecution for it. And a McCrory campaign attorney is behind his protest, and the McCrory campaign is exceedingly eager to prevent Dowless from discussing what transpired between that attorney and Mr. Dowless. Shakedown, maybe? Jeebus.
There are a lot of good people in the audience chuckling and shaking their heads right now.
4:54 PM EST: Malcolm (D): “How many absentee ballot request forms came to you through this process?” “I’d say ’bout a hundred and sixty-four.” And you initialed every one of them in one corner before sending them on?” “Yessir.” “And how many voted ballots came to you through this process?” “I couldn’t say, sir.” But when Malcolm asked for confirmation, Dowless says “No sir, I never saw nobody’s ballot but my own.”
5:10 PM EST: There’s blood in the water here right now, as attorney Irv Joyner begins his own joyful cross-examination of protestor Dowless.
5:12 PM EST: Atty Joyner asks Dowless whether, in prior elections, he has been endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association. “Yessir, they had me on their sample ballot in 2012, and I gived them no money.” “And in 2016 were you endorsed by the Bladen County Improvement Association?” “No sir.”

As they say on CNN, we'll have to leave it right there.