The McCrory campaign said it intends to file the protests because of possible fraudulent ballots cast in Guilford and 10 other counties. And the North Carolina governor's race could drag on past Thanksgiving in an ugly way: The Democrat is declaring victory but the Republican incumbent is refusing to concede, and his campaign is raising the possibility of voter fraud.
Board spokesman Patrick Gannon confirmed Tuesday the investigation of the Bladen County ballots is continuing. Some will do just that, but many others will need an extension into next week to finalize vote counts.
After lengthy legal battles over how, when and where people could vote, they're fighting now over whether to count 60,000 provisional ballots and thousands more absentee ballots that have remained sealed since Election Day.
If the McCrory campaign has enough evidence of voting irregularities to call for a contested election and the race between McCrory and Cooper remains too close to call, the North Carolina House of Representatives would be the final decision-maker in who occupies the governor's mansion for the next four years.
The board will hold the evidentiary hearing at a meeting already scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday to certify the final voting totals for Durham County.
In a Raleigh warehouse where Wake County's ballots are secured, board members spent Thursday morning signing off on counting more than 3,000 mail-in ballots and determining the choices on some damaged ballots. Those voters said they registered at the DMV but there is no record of that. Delays in receiving information from the DMV are causing numerous problems.
Marc Elias told reporters Friday that trailing Republican Gov. "It's unfortunate to see that rather than accepting election results, Pat McCrory is going to go down by besmirching Republican election officials and the voters of North Carolina". "There's additional cases of voter fraud being discovered each day".
The State Board of Elections now says unofficial statewide results show Cooper with 6,318 more votes than McCrory. Cooper leads McCrory in the intensely-contested race and with nearly 5 million ballots casted.
"I've been involved in representing people on winning ends and losing ends of close elections", said Elias after a round of Cooper wins.
The Durham County elections board on Friday denied a protest calling for a hand count of paper ballots from last week's election. During the hearing, NCGOP Attorney Thomas Stark proposed a recount citing equipment problems. Staff recommendations must then be approved or amended by local boards of election before the eligible votes are counted. LGBT groups decried the legislation as discriminatory to transgender people, while other critics said the bill hurt the state financially by losing them lucrative business deals.
"It appears that our worst fears have come true and this absentee ballot fraud scheme may run deeper than just Bladen County", said Russell Peck, Pat McCrory's campaign manager.
Half of North Carolina's counties were named in a GOP press release Thursday night leveling accusations of voter fraud.