RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A conservative group filed a request Wednesday for an urgent hearing on North Carolina voters who cast ballots through same-day registration, while the state NAACP criticized the legal action as playing games with the state's still-undecided contest for governor.
The latest volley over the tight race also included a news conference by the state GOP calling for more scrutiny of ballots in Democratic-leaning Durham County. The moves come a day after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory began the process of requesting a recount.
Unofficial numbers from the State Board of Elections show Democrat Roy Cooper with a lead of about 7,700 votes over McCrory, a margin that has grown since Election Night. About 20 of the state's 100 counties — including several of its most populous — hadn't finished their tallies by late Wednesday afternoon.
The trailing candidate will be eligible for a recount if the margin is 10,000 votes or less after ballots are tallied.
The leader of the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute filed a motion in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction and an expedited hearing on the lawsuit it filed this week.
The lawsuit asks a federal court to require that the state Board of Elections refrain from certifying election results until it has finished verifying same-day registrants. The lawsuit argues verification can't properly be finished until December because of a mailing process that takes a month. Statewide results were scheduled for certification Nov. 29, but state officials can delay that tally.
Lawyers for the Civitas Institute wrote Wednesday that a hearing on the matter was urgently needed because the vote count is underway. Hours later, Judge James Dever set a hearing on the motion for Dec. 2.
But the lawsuit was criticized by North Carolina NAACP president William Barber, who called it part of a multifaceted effort to delay election results that are unfavorable McCrory and his Republican allies.
"The election is over, and it's time for the games to stop," Barber said at a news conference.
Barber said the issue of same-day registration was settled when a federal appeals court restored that ability for voters in a July ruling. The court overturned several parts of a wide-ranging 2013 elections law enacted by the GOP.
Bob Hall, executive director of the nonprofit Democracy North Carolina, said some voters are being maligned with false accusations that they're felons. Elections protests have been filed in counties around the state, adding to the slow pace of the statewide count.
Hall said his group examined 43 cases around the state in which voters were accused of being ineligible to vote because of felonies. He found that five involved mistaken identity, and more than a dozen others were for voters convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.
At a separate news conference later, officials with the state GOP said the NAACP has mischaracterized Republicans' motives behind looking closely at the vote — which they say is a normal part of the electoral process. The GOP also said Durham County's 6,000 absentee ballots should have more scrutiny to see if there are any unusual patterns.
State GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said it's important to have a thorough look at how votes are counted and who's eligible.
"I'm not saying there is anything illegitimate," he said. "I'm just saying we're not finished."
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