“No, NC Republicans can’t just declare Pat McCrory a winner without courts having a say”

Peter St. Onge for Charlotte Observer:

So what’s the misinformation? The New York Times wrote Saturday, and Slate repeated Monday, that N.C. law not only allows the General Assembly to declare a winner in the governor’s race, but that the decision is “not reviewable” by the courts.

 Yes, N.C. lawmakers can declare a winner, a power given to them both by the N.C. constitution, which says the General Assembly can settle “contested” state races, but also the law cited by the New York Times and Slate that says losers in Council of State races can appeal the results to the legislature.

As for whether the legislature’s decision can be reviewed by courts, here’s what that N.C. statute actually says: “The decision of the General Assembly in determining the contest of the election pursuant to this section may not be reviewed by the General Court of Justice.”

While that might mean that N.C. courts can’t question such a decision, federal courts definitely can. So says Richard Hasen, election law expert and professor at the University of California-Irvine.

Hasen told me Monday night that if lawmakers declare McCrory the winner: “It could certainly be reviewable by a federal court regardless of what the legislature says.” He went into some detail a few moments later on his election law blog. It’s worth a read, but to summarize: If there’s clear evidence that Cooper got more votes, and there’s no plausible argument for fraud, then Cooper could claim both a Due Process and Equal Protection Clause violation if the race were handed to McCrory. There’s precedent for courts taking such a look.

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