If you enjoy drama in your politics, the North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice race between Cheri Beasley and Paul Newby is the gift that keeps on giving.
After the county canvasses of votes on November 13 and later recanvassing in a few counties to correct mistakes, Newby’s lead stood at 416 votes. Beasley then requested a recount. That recount was supposed to have been completed before Thanksgiving but, once again, mismanagement in the process caused delays and the recount was not completed until yesterday. The final result of that recount was a Newby win by 401 votes (the recount is the official result of the race).
Under North Carolina law, Beasley could and did request a hand-to-eye recount in a sample of precincts “in order to ensure a complete and thorough ballot count.”
(While Beasley has a right to request a second recount, her campaign has demonstrated that they are not interested in trying to “ensure that every North Carolina voter is heard.” The real goal is to try another toss of the dice in the hope that the numbers somehow change. It would be refreshing to hear a politician admit that they are requesting a recount in the hope that it would cause them to win.)
The hand-eye recount procedure is dictated by law in GS 163-182.7A:
That sample shall be all the ballots in three percent (3%) of the precincts casting ballots in each county in the jurisdiction of the office, rounded up to the next whole number of precincts. For the purpose of that calculation, each one-stop (early) voting site shall be considered to be a precinct. The precincts to be recounted by a hand-to-eye count shall be chosen at random within each county.
So every county will have to do a hand-recount in at least one precinct or early voting site (voting locations) and moves up depending on the number of voting locations in the county:
- 34+ voting locations: recount 2
- 67+ voting locations: recount 3
- 100+ voting locations: recount 4
Absentee-by-mail ballots should be counted with their respective precincts.
So what are we looking for in this partial recount? Let’s refer to GS 163-182.7A again:
If the results of the hand-to-eye recount differ from the previous results within those precincts to the extent that extrapolating the amount of the change to the entire jurisdiction (based on the proportion of ballots recounted to the total votes cast for that office) would result in the reversing of the results, then the State Board of Elections shall order a hand-to-eye recount of the entire jurisdiction in which the election is held. There shall be no cost to the candidate for that recount in the entire jurisdiction.
There were 5,391,501 votes in the chief justice race. Presuming that voting locations that were selected will contain 3% of the ballots accepted in the 2020 election, about 166,375 ballots will be hand-counted, including roughly 161,745 votes in the chief justice race. Three percent of 401 (the current margin in the race) is 12.03, meaning that Beasley would have to get at least 13 additional votes out of that 161,745. So, there are several possible results of the partial hand-to-eye count:
- If Newby’s lead increases by any amount, Newby wins.
- If there is no change, Newby wins.
- If Beasley gains 1-12 votes, Newby wins.
- If Beasley gains 13 or more votes, there is a hand-to-eye recount of all ballots in the state.
So, the magic number to look out for as this process continues is 13 (UPDATE: I did some calculating based on the precincts selected in each county and it appears that about 270,000 votes in the chief justice race will be reviewed, meaning that Beasley will need to gain 20 or 21 votes in the partial recount to trigger a full statewide hand-eye recount.)
In other developments, the state board of elections will hear appeals of protests rejected by county boards of elections from both campaigns on December 18 (all county boards must deal with protests by December 9).
So, there is a chance the chief justice race could be certified by Christmas. That would be a gift for every North Carolinian who would like to get the 2020 election over and done with.