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December 2, 2020

Chief justice recount finishes in Rowan County with both candidates losing votes

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — After a second and final full day of recounting the remaining one-stop ballots for the N.C. Supreme Court chief justice race, the recount resulted in six fewer votes for the Democrat candidate and five fewer votes for the Republican candidate.

The Rowan County Board of Elections began its recount of all ballots on Thursday and continued counting just one-stop ballots on Friday. After the recount, the board reported no change from the 15,620 election day ballots, 175 provisional or 10,258 absentee by mail ballots cast for the general election.

But on Friday, a recount indicated that 11 one-stop ballots showed results different from the county’s canvass of 47,620 one-stop ballots cast. The board canvassed the election last week, with results showing a total of 73,662 ballots had been cast among 75.59% of the registered voters in Rowan County.

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the Democrat incumbent, called for a statewide recount on Tuesday as her Republican challenger, Paul Newby, only leads her by 409 votes across the state. In Rowan County, however, Newby carried 47,453 of the votes, or 66.09%, while Beasley received 24,346 votes, or 33.91%.

Following Friday’s recount, however, Newby now has 47,448 votes, while Beasley has 24,340 votes.

Rowan County Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins said the number of people actively participating in the recount varied at times, but hovered around a dozen people total. The State Board of Elections provided county boards with guidance on allowing breaks for those participating in the recount.

Beasley filed a petition to protest the election results in at least two dozen counties this week, including Rowan. But the county board ruled there was no probable cause to hold a formal hearing regarding Beasley’s election protest.

Beasley and her campaign team requested the recount to “ensure over 2,000 absentee and provisional ballots that were wrongfully rejected are included in the final tally.”

NCGOP Press Secretary Tim Wigginton on Friday called Beasley’s filed protests “weak” and called on Beasley and her campaign team to “immediately withdraw their frivolous protests and allow the county boards to focus on completing the recount.”

Only the Supreme Court contest is eligible for a statewide recount, according to state Board of Elections spokesperson Patrick Gannon. He also said the recounting process will take several days for some counties, but all counties must complete the recount by Nov. 25.

As of Friday evening, Stanly is the only adjacent county that has completed its recount totals. That recount showed Newby lost one vote, while Beasley gained two. But Newby still won Stanly County by a wide margin — 24,203 votes to Beasley’s 8,747 votes.

In a statement, Gannon also noted this is the first statewide recount since the 2016 state auditor’s race, which confirmed the results in that contest. In that race, Republican Chuck Stuber trailed current state auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, by about 6,000 votes before the recount. After the recount, Wood won by about 6,050 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast.

Additionally, Gannon said this recount is not considered a hand-to-eye recount. State law allows Beasley to demand a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts if the current recount doesn’t reverse the results. If the recount did reverse the results, Newby would have the same right to ask for a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts. The sample would be all ballots in 3% of the precincts and early voting sites in that county, chosen at random.

Variances in the count can result if tabulators catch a partial or stray mark on the ballot. Additionally, high-speed tabulators used to expedite the counties’ recounts may result in slight variances from the results from the smaller precinct tabulators that first counted the ballots.

“We cannot express enough gratitude for the hard work of our county boards of elections, who continue to ensure accurate and fair results in this election,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, in a statement. “Recounts are an important part of the elections process that help guarantee voters’ wishes are realized in the closest of contests.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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