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What’s going on with North Carolina, Wisconsin election results

Election officials have not yet certified results in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District after discovering voting “irregularities.” Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, concerns are being raised about how the state’s Republican legislature is handling the transition of power. Lisa Desjardins joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the impact of these developments and whether they indicate larger trends.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's been a month since the midterm elections, but questions remain about the voting process and outcome in one North Carolina congressional district.

    And, in Wisconsin, Democrats are raising concerns about how the state's Republican legislature is handling the transition of power.

    Amna Nawaz has details on both states.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Let's start in North Carolina, where election officials last week certified all but one race, the state's 9th Congressional District.

    Democrat Dan McCready trails Republican Mark Harris by roughly 900 votes. That's less than half a percentage point. But an investigation is now under way after officials uncovered what they call irregularities.

    Lisa Desjardins is here to explain it all. Thank goodness she is.

    Irregularities, what does that mean? What are they looking into?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Specifically here, we're talking mostly about one county, Bladen County. And it's a congressional district, so each county matters a lot.

    And we're talking about absentee ballots, Amna, two different ways. First, there were workers who were sent out. Amna, there's 200 or so absentee ballots that have witness signatures — every one must be witnessed — which overlap. We're seeing seven witnesses on some 150 or so absentee ballots.

    That might not be suspicious in of itself. But many of these witnesses put down the same address, a one-bedroom apartment as their address. So that's raising questions.

    Then, on the other side, there are voters who say a woman came up to their house and asked for their absentee ballot, and then took it and said she herself would fill that out. That woman said she was in fact paid by the Republican candidate's campaign. And she didn't know that that is illegal to do, which it is.

    Now, why do these — these kind of anecdotes happen all the time. But the issue is here the numbers. In this particular county, we see a margin of victory for these absentee ballots for the Republican that is different than in any other county. We also see a number of absentee ballots that were not actually turned in that is also higher than in other counties.

    So that's raising a lot of questions.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's a raising a lot of questions. The board of elections is now looking into this, right, trying to answer some of those questions. So what now? What happens next?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    December 21, there will be a hearing by the elections board of the state. They will decide if this election should be certified, or if they need to pursue more investigation.

    And ultimately, Amna, if they're not satisfied, they could call for a new election. It's hard to say if the vote totals would be enough to overcome that 900-vote gap. But there are a lot of questions here.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And a lot we still don't know. So that's one story we're following in North Carolina.

    Wisconsin is something else you have been looking at. There have been protests at the state capitol. Republican legislators basically in a lame-duck session, right, came in, introduced some sweeping changes, limiting some of the powers of the incoming governor and attorney general, both of whom are Democrats.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What's going on there?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There's a well-known Republican involved here. That is Scott Walker, the out-coming — going Republican governor. He and the Republican legislature are now, it looks like, ready to push through a very large package of changes that would limit the powers of the incoming Democrats.

    Let's go through exactly what they're doing. First, these — this bill would make it so the legislature could replace the attorney general in some cases he is litigating, just a committee of the legislature. It would also take away some other powers of the attorney general and some powers of the governor over some state agencies.

    And, Amna, it would shorten the early voting period to no more than two weeks in Wisconsin. Right now, cities and towns can have as much as 47 days, but this Republican bill would shorten that period. All of those would have very serious effects, potentially.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, if these changes do go through, what would be those effects? What's the impact?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    So think about the attorney general. This would be a matter of, what do you prosecute? Think about environmental law or not. Also, think about things like workplace hazards.

    On the Republican argument, they say, we think this attorney general might overlitigate. We want the ability to say when we think he's going outside the bounds of the Constitution.

    But Democrats say this is also about health care. This is also about what that attorney general would do in promoting perhaps the Affordable Care Act. There are a lot of very real-world issues on the table here.

    And that early voting, that matters a lot, Amna, because what would happen? While rural communities say they want to have the same voting window as everyone else, this would shorten the window probably for urban voters in particular.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    OK, so these are two very specific cases with a lot of details. We still don't yet know how everything is going to play out in North Carolina and in Wisconsin.

    Are these isolated incidents? How should we think about these right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I can hear our viewers screaming at the television, no, because we have been reporting on this all year.

    I can look at this list that we put together with our producer Matt Loffman. This goes back to robo-calls that we saw in Florida and Georgia this year. We have seen early voting windows being shortened all around the country for years.

    And this case in Wisconsin, it sounds unique at first, a Republican legislature or one legislator limiting an incoming governor, but in Michigan, same situation. We also expect later this week the Republican legislature there may try to limit the authorities of the incoming Democratic governor there as well.

    Now, they have that right. But Democrats say, if they pass those laws in Michigan and in Wisconsin, expect that to go to court. And that's where we see all of these things being settled right now. And that's why it's especially important to watch courts. It tells us what voters can do and also what their votes mean.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Similar cases in the past we have seen still playing out in the courts. These will likely be played out there as well.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I think that's right.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa Desjardins, thanks very much.

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