RALEIGH — Republican challenger David Rouzer has requested a recount in the contest for North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District, a race which Rep. Mike McIntyre has twice declared himself the victor.
McIntyre, a Lumberton native and the eight-time incumbent, is calling the recount a waste of taxpayer money.
Rouzer, a state senator from Johnson County, trails by 655 votes, a margin of 0.2 percent among the nearly 337,000 ballots cast. That’s within the 1 percent threshold — or about 3,360 votes — that allows a recount request.
In a statement, Rouzer said he wants to ensure every “legal vote” cast is properly and accurately counted, pointing to the potential for human error as exhibited by a vote-counting error found corrected in Bladen County.
Poll workers there accidentally counted the votes from one precinct twice. The mistake was discovered during a routine check of the tally conducted the day after the election.
“In a race this close, accidental human error could easily change the outcome,” Rouzer said.
Gary O. Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections, said the recount would be held Nov. 26 and 27. According to Bartlett, the estimated cost of a recount could be around $50,000 for each of the 12 counties that have precincts that lie in the 7th District — about half a million dollars.
“If it’s a hand-to-eye count, it will be triple that cost,” he said.
According to Bartlett, a “bipartisan team” of election officials in each county will re-enter ballots into the tabulator “just like on Election Day.” The results will then be tallied and sent to the state board.
Dock Locklear, director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said that about 12 staff members will be putting in a full day’s worth of work on Monday and Tuesday to recount ballots in the five county precincts that lie in District 7.
“I think there are some that have to do the whole county,” Locklear said. “We’re fortunate to only have five.”
Bartlett said a “machine count” is required by law, but a candidate affected by the recount can ask for a random precinct to be counted by hand. If those results differ from the machine count, the candidate can then request that all votes in the district be recounted by hand.
After Rouzer announced his recount, McIntyre’s campaign was quick to point out that the recount would be taxpayer-funded.
“While we respect the legal right for a recount, it is unfortunate that taxpayer dollars, time, and resources will be spent on a process that has been closely monitored,” said Lachlan McIntosh, Mcintyre’s campaign manager. “All 12 county boards of elections in the 7th District have carefully reviewed the votes and the results have already shown Mike McIntyre to be the winner.
“For someone who has claimed fiscal responsibility, David Rouzer is asking taxpayers to pay for his pursuit of his own personal political ambition in a district he had drawn for himself.”
McIntyre’s campaign in 1995 also became expensive when a runoff was required between him and Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend in the primaryn. Lowry-Townsend led McIntyre 30 to 23 percent in the primary, but lacked the needed 40 percent majority. In the runoff campaign, McIntyre called for smaller government, cited his close ties to the district, and got a boost from black leaders, who supported him. He won 52 to 48 percent.
McIntyre declared himself the victor on this year’s Election Day, when he had a lead of 507 votes, and again after provisional and absentee ballots counted on Friday left him leading by 655 votes. He secured Robeson with a majority vote of a little more than 71 percent — winning by at least 100 votes in the five county precincts that lie in his district and by 629 in one-stop voting.
McIntyre would be sworn into a ninth term, having first been elected to Congress in 1996.
As a state senator, Rouzer voted for new boundaries that left District 7 much different than the one McIntyre has represented since 1997. It now encompasses a largely rural stretch of eastern North Carolina sprinkled with small towns, and only includes a sliver of Robeson County, and doesn’t include McIntyre ’s Lumberton home. Robeson County was entirely in District 7 before redistricting.
Rouzer is a resident of Republican-leaning Johnston County, which was added to the district.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.