RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Governor Pat McCrory's reelection campaign said Thursday it's filing paperwork with the State Board of Elections to establish a legal defense fund to prepare for an extended legal battle over who won Tuesday's election.
While Attorney General Roy Cooper declared victory in the race for North Carolina governor, McCrory only trails by less than 10,000 votes - a deficit too small for election officials to dismiss when there are perhaps tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still uncounted.
On Thursday, officials with the Wake County Board of Elections offered ABC11 an all-access tour of the facilities where its staff of more than 80 people continue to sift through votes and prepare for a potential recount.
Wake County this year received 34,056 requests for absentee ballots, including 582 for those in the military and 2,314 living overseas. Absentee ballots returned must be postmarked by November 8, and must arrive by 5:00 p.m. November 14h (November 18 for military and overseas). According to the Wake County Board of Elections, 25,598 of those absentee ballots have returned and were counted among all votes cast during the early voting period and on Election Day. That leaves a difference, however, of 8,458 ballots that haven't arrived yet.
Again, those absentee ballots will only count if they're postmarked in time and delivered in time.
In addition to absentee ballots, ABC11 also visited a warehouse full of provisional ballots.
The same rules apply to all of North Carolina's 99 other counties, which have all sent out and received a variety of totals of absentee ballots, and also have a varying number of provisional ballots. These are votes cast by voters who perhaps missed something on their registration or voted in the wrong precinct. They have not been counted and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the county election board.
In North Carolina, county election boards are bipartisan bodies with one Democrat, one Republican and a third member from the governor's party, which this year is Republican.
"It's a long, long day," Gary Sims, Wake County Board of Elections Director, quipped to. "We will wheel out carts and carts and carts of provisional envelopes and it's their duty to go through those."
Wake County has 6,973 provisional ballots.
For a complete timeline of North Carolina's post-election process, the State Board of Elections released the following:
State Board of Elections released the following post-election process:
1. Absentee ballots: Mail-in absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Nov. 14. Overseas and military absentee ballots are accepted through Nov. 17.
2. Sample Audit: Every county conducts a sample hand-to-eye count of ballots in randomly selected precincts and one-stop locations to confirm results tabulated by machine. Counties must conduct their hand-to-eye counts in public.
3. Provisional ballot meetings: Each county board of elections will meet before certifying the election to make decisions on provisional applications submitted by voters during early voting and on Election Day. If the board determines that the voter is eligible, the provisional ballot is counted. Provisional ballots are cast when an individual's registration information does not appear in the poll books or there are other questions about that person's eligibility to vote.
4. County canvass: County boards of elections will certify results at public meetings held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18.
5. Recounts: For statewide contests this year, the vote difference must be 10,000 votes or less for a candidate to demand a recount after the county canvass. The demand for a recount must be in writing and received by the State Board of Elections no later than noon Tuesday, Nov. 22. If a recount is demanded, the State Board of Elections Office would issue a schedule, and the counties would conduct recounts individually during open meetings. For non-statewide contests, the difference between the candidates must be within 1 percent of the total votes cast in the ballot item.
6. State canvass: The State Board of Elections will certify statewide results for all federal, statewide, multi-district and judicial contests at a public meeting held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29. Results in each contest are not considered official until that date.