Even though North Carolina went for Donald Trump earlier this month, those same voters ousted their Republican governor, Pat McCrory, in favor of Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general. McCrory will probably demand a recount, but it would be very unlikely to change the outcome, since Cooper now leads by 5,923 votes, up from 4,480 on election night.
However, McCrory is refusing to abide by the normal democratic process. He has instead lodged baseless protests alleging widespread voter fraud, which could set the stage for the Republican-dominated state legislature to overturn the election result and give McCrory a second term—even if he trails in the final vote tallies.
McCrory has challenged vote counts in more than 50 counties based on claims of fraud that are almost entirely without real evidence. County boards of election have repeatedly ruled against these challenges, even though by law they are comprised of two members of the governor’s party and just one from the opposition. That means even Republican election officials have rejected McCrory’s arguments!
But McCrory’s real target almost certainly lies beyond these local election boards. Instead, it appears that he’s trying to delegitimize the election process itself. Then, after he’s kicked enough dirt into the air by raising bogus “questions” about the election, he can, under state law, ask the legislature to use its powers to simply name him the victor. The fraud claims would simply be a fig-leaf for Republicans to overturn the will over the voters. And amazingly enough, if they do so, their decision wouldn’t even be subject to judicial review in state court (although a federal lawsuit might still be possible).
Don’t imagine for a moment that an outright reversal of an election loss would be a bridge too far for today’s Republicans, because this very thing happened back in January in a Mississippi state House race. After the contest ended in a tie, Democrat Bo Eaton won the tiebreaker—the legally established method for deciding winners in such situations. But the GOP-dominated legislature exercised its authority to ignore that result and seat the Republican anyway.
And for North Carolina Republicans in particular, this kind of banana republic behavior would be nothing new. In fact, in just the last few years, they’ve repeatedly and flagrantly sought to undermine democracy. Another example pops from this very same election: Right after Democrats won a four-to-three majority on the state Supreme Court earlier this month, Republicans began talking about packing the court with two more justices to undo that new majority.
Republicans have also gerrymandered so aggressively that they won veto-proof majorities in 2012 despite Democratic legislative candidates winning more votes statewide. Indeed, they’ve pushed so far beyond the limits of what’s acceptable that courts have struck down as unconstitutional the GOP’s maps for Congress, the legislature, and even local governments.
And to cap it all off, the legislature even passed a voter suppression law so extreme that a federal court said it intentionally “targeted African-American voters with almost surgical precision” when it struck the law down in July. Election-stealing, court-packing, gerrymandering, racist voter suppression—the list goes on and on. Republicans in North Carolina are quite simply waging a war on democracy itself, and Pat McCrory is simply preparing for the latest assault.