N.C. Challenger To Gov. McCrory Remains In Lead As Final Ballots Counted

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Democratic challenger Roy Cooper has a lead of more than 6,000 votes over Gov. Pat McCrory. He's seen here with his wife, Kristin, at an election night rally in Raleigh.

More than a week after initial returns showed him narrowly beating Gov. Pat McCrory, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has added to his lead, while several counties have rejected Republicans' complaints and calls for a recount. The final tally is ongoing.

Cooper, a Democrat, leads the Republican incumbent by 6,600 votes — 2,288,867 to 2,282,267 — with both candidates hovering just below the 49 percent mark, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Libertarian Lon Cecil captured 101,574 votes, for just over 2 percent.

The elections board in Durham County rejected McCrory's call for a hand recount of 94,000 early ballots, and two other counties rejected complaints that included an allegation that computer issues had created improper voting conditions, member station WFAE reports.

WFAE spoke to reporter Jeff Tiberii (of another member station, WUNC), who said, "We should note that all local boards across the state are comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat."

Before a winner is declared, more counties will have to certify their final tallies — and roughly half of North Carolina's 100 counties are also contending with election complaints registered by Republicans.

For now, the race has the same status it gained on Nov. 8: too close to call. But citing Cooper's lead, Marc Elias, an election specialist for the Democratic challenger, tells the Raleigh News Observer that Cooper will likely lead the state. While Cooper's lead has grown since election night, the tally has fluctuated, and it may not surpass the 10,000-vote threshold that would prevent McCrory from calling for a recount, Elias tells the newspaper.

Voter turnout was relatively strong in North Carolina, where Donald Trump edged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Before midnight on Election Day, the state election board reported more people had voted in 2016 than in 2012.

North Carolina has been in national headlines this year for its controversial HB2 law limiting civil rights protections for LGBT people and regulating who uses which public bathrooms. The law prompted businesses, sports groups and celebrities to boycott the state; McCrory dropped a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice in September, "after U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said HB2 violated both the Civil Rights Act and Title IX and threatened to withhold federal funding to the state."

Now voters are awaiting word on who won the governor's race.

As WUNC's Tiberii reports:

"Meanwhile, nearly 60,000 provisional ballots are being considered and thrown out or counted by local election boards. These ballots are cast when there are questions about voter eligibility. Political scientists say about half of all provisional ballots are thrown out and those counted tend to lean Democratic or mirror the general election outcome."

"This has been a hard-fought race," Cooper said on election night. "But the people of North Carolina have spoken, and they want a change in leadership."

He concluded that speech by saying that he was "confident these results will be certified, and that they will confirm victory."

But at nearly the same time, McCrory told supporters, "The process is continuing right here in North Carolina; the election is not over in North Carolina."

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