RALEIGH, N.C. – Neither major party leader on Thursday indicated much concern as the recount for the chief justice race began in earnest.
More than 40 counties on Thursday commenced their part of the statewide recount in the race for the state's highest judicial seat.
In each county, one Democrat and one Republican have been assigned to each vote tabulation machine where they will feed ballots back in one at a time. A bipartisan pair of election board members must be present at all times, and in many counties, lawyers and observers from the major parties are present.
In statewide elections, runners-up are allowed to ask for a recount if fewer than 10,000 votes separate them from the apparent winner.
As of Thursday, Republican Justice Paul Newby led Democratic Chief Justice Cheri Beasley by 409 votes. The winner of the race for the chief justice's job will administer the state court system in addition to leading North Carolina's highest court.
It is the only statewide race to end in a recount.
North Carolina Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley said he was confident Newby would maintain his lead. So far, he said he hasn't seen any cause for concern in how the recount is being conducted.
“We've really experienced no problems that we've had to address, other than sporadic instances, and we really do feel like the boards, the county boards themselves, have done a great job of operating aboveboard on all of the counting issues,” he said.
Whatley's Democratic Party counterpart, Wayne Goodwin, said it was important to make sure every vote is counted. Even if Newby's lead holds, Goodwin said asking for a recount is far from a pointless exercise.
“To have only a few hundred votes between the two candidates, it will certainly be worth it to ensure that the true will of the voters is determined,” he said.
If the recount puts Beasley ahead, Newby would have the option to ask for a hand-eye recount. Whatley said Newby “absolutely” would do so under that scenario.
The counties have until Wednesday to finish the recount.
Officials in some counties, such as Nash County, told the N.C. State Board of Elections they expect to finish in a day or two. In Wake County, where more than 634,000 ballots were cast, officials expect to need at least five days and plan to work through the weekend.
In addition to the chief justice recount, state elections officials said authorities are conducting a total of nine recounts in local races.
In a non-statewide race, candidates may ask for a recount if their vote totals are within 1% of that of the apparent winner.
Guilford County alone has three recounts, the most of any county this time around, in the races for the 3rd and 5th district seats on the board of education and in the 4th district race for the board of commissioners.
At-large board of commissioners races in Richmond and Bladen counties have gone to a recount, as has the 5th district race in Chatham County.
In Jackson County, just seven votes separate Mark Letson from Mark Jones in the race for that county's 4th district commissioner seat.
Recounts have also been called in the board of education races for Cabarrus County and for Buncombe County's Owen school district.
Finally, Alleghany County's sales and use tax measure currently sits at a loss by a mere 23 votes.