Today North Carolina’s incumbent governor, Pat McCrory, conceded to his Democratic challenger, Roy Cooper, becoming the first North Carolina governor to ever lose re-election and ending a month long contentious struggle for the future leadership of the state.
McCrory refused to concede on election night, claiming without evidence that voter fraud had taken place and insisting on a recount. At least eight Republican-controlled boards of election denied his recount requests citing lack of evidence, and as absentee and provisional ballots were added to the final count, Cooper’s lead swelled to over 10,000 votes, the margin at which North Carolina will no longer conduct a recount.
In his desperate quest to prove non-existent voter fraud, a voter that McCrory tried to claim was dead was found to be very much alive, and two voters that McCrory accused of being convicted felons were determined not to be felons at all. In his concession speech, McCrory refused to acknowledge that no foul play took place, even as many accuse him of demeaning the integrity of the state’s election process.
But the integrity of North Carolina’s elections was under fire well before November 8 because of the actions of Governor McCrory. In 2013, he was responsible for passing some of the most draconian and disenfranchising voter restriction laws in the country, including shortened early voting periods and strict voter identification requirements that favored IDs held by white people and excluded those disproportionately held by people of color.
In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned these laws, ruling they were passed by the state legislature with racially discriminatory intent “in the aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.”
Even after the ruling, many of North Carolina’s 100 local election boards, which became responsible for filing their own election rules in the wake of the state laws’ overhaul, found ways to suppress minority voter participation. For example, though the appeals court ordered all counties to re-instate early voting from 10 days to 17 days, the court placed no other requirements on how those 17 days were to be regulated. As a result, some counties re-instituted the 17 day early voting period, but severely cut the hours they would be open, with some completely eliminating operations on Sundays, a day that African American communities have historically gone together to the polls.
In four of North Carolina’s counties, the elections ended up being monitored by Justice Department officials after the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit alleging that three counties illegally purged thousands of voters from the registration rolls within 90 days of the election, a disproportionate number of whom are African American.
McCrory also faced serious federal and economic backlash over the state’s discriminatory HB 2 law, known as the so-called “bathroom bill,” a highly controversial measure that aimed to prevent transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, and made discrimination against LGBTQ people fully legal in the public domain. Though McCrory ended up withdrawing the state’s request for federal court protection of the anti-LGBTQ law, North Carolina endured substantial costs defending HB 2 in court and lost a number of high profile economic agreements over the matter, including with PayPal and the NCAA.