Hand recounts of a small portion of ballots cast statewide in the extremely close race for North Carolina Supreme Court chief justice will begin next week in the counties, the State Board of Elections announced on Thursday.
Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley asked for the partial hand-to-eye recount immediately after the machine recount of nearly 5.4 million ballots cast in her race with Republican Paul Newby was finally completed late Wednesday. Newby, the senior associate justice, leads Beasley by 401 votes — an advantage little changed since the initial final counting by counties finished two weeks ago.
The partial hand recount applies to ballots in 3% of the voting sites in all 100 counties, chosen at random on Friday by the state board. Once the partial recount is complete, a statewide hand recount would be ordered if the sample results differ enough from the machine recount to the point that the result would be reversed if the difference was extrapolated to all ballots.
A final result could still be weeks away. The state board scheduled for Dec. 18 its hearings on appeals by the Newby or Beasley campaigns of protests they've filed challenging the counting or rejection of thousands of specific absentee ballots by county elections boards.