Under the Dome

Coleman mounts legal challenges aimed at swaying Lt. Gov. race

It remains unclear whether the race for lieutenant governor will be close enough to deserve a recount, but legal challenges related to the race are already taking form.

Linda Coleman, the Democratic candidate, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Dan Forest, announced on Thursday her campaign will file two lawsuits in Wake County.

One argues that the state Constitution requires that same-day voter registration be allowed on Election Day, and that voters who cast provisional ballots after trying to vote should have their ballots counted; the other seeks more information about people who say they registered at a Division of Motor Vehicles location but ended up being absent from the voting rolls when they tried to cast a ballot.

North Carolinians can register and vote at one-stop absentee sites in their county of residence during the three-week early voting period, but not on Election Day.

Gary Bartlett, state elections director, said the current process allows county boards to confirm ballots are valid before canvass, which takes place 10 days after an election and is when the boards certify results.

“It gives us enough time to have safeguards, like checking to confirm the address they list is theirs by sending letters and making sure they’re not returned,” Bartlett said.

Coleman, however, is arguing that anyone who showed up expecting to register and vote on Nov. 6 was denied a Constitutional right and should have their provisional ballot count toward the election. Over the past several days, Coleman's campaign claims to have identified many voters who fit that profile.

“The state treats the same voter differently even though their situations are exactly the same,” Coleman said. “You can’t treat these people differently. That’s unconstitutional, and we believe their votes deserve to be counted.”

Hal Weatherman, Forest’s campaign manager, said Coleman is suing to change the rules “after the election is over to manipulate the outcome to her advantage.”

“This is the very reason we have clear election laws on the books,” Weatherman said. “There are many good people with the board of elections, working hard to make sure all legal votes are counted and to ensure fairness and transparency in the election process. It is sad to see Ms. Coleman stoop to this level."

In a separate lawsuit, Coleman is requesting that the DMV turn over records related to people who claim to have registered at a DMV location but did not end up on the voter rolls. The campaign claims many people made that complaint, and will include in the lawsuit an affidavit of someone who reported the problem.

Nicole Hope of Cumberland County said in the sworn statement she moved from Tennessee and registered to vote at the DMV when changing her driver’s license.

“Come Election Day, I find out that I am not registered to vote at all,” Hope said. “It is deeply upsetting that I, as a citizen who made the effort to follow the proper and legal protocol for voting, was unable to vote due to someone else’s error.”

Friday is the deadline for county boards of election to assess provisional ballots, which are cast when there are concerns about a voter's eligibility.

The margin must be no more than half a percentage point and 10,000 votes or less for a candidate to be able to request a recount.

The latest unofficial results show Forest leading by 10,304 votes with more than 4.3 million ballots cast.

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