There was a big win for transgender Americans on election night, and it happened in North Carolina, of all places. That state has been the epicenter of the battle for trans bathroom rights since HB2 — a bill that required that trans residents use the bathroom that corresponded to their assigned sex at birth, not their gender identity or expression — was passed there. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, a big supporter of the bill, lost a close race for reelection, hence the potential win for the future of trans rights in North Carolina. But now, the North Carolina electoral victory is under fire, as McCrory is suddenly questioning the legality of the election, trying to win his seat back.
At this point, McCrory's Democratic challenger, State Attorney General Roy Cooper, is ahead by roughly 7,448 votes, as Raleigh's The News & Observer reported. And yet the governor refuses to concede, claiming voter fraud. His campaign has alleged that felons illegally voted, that similar handwriting on absentee ballots pointed to fraud, and that some dead people were allowed to vote (they died after voting early but before Election Day). Local boards of election aren't buying it, though — and they're largely controlled by Republicans. Regardless, Cooper's lead is too big for these contested votes (between just 150 to 500) to tip the election.
That is where things get interesting, and McCrory's actions become rather questionable. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate explained what could be the incumbent's true goal: getting the entire election thrown out with the claims of fraud so that the race is decided by the Republican-controlled legislature. Stern wrote:
[McCrory's] real goal appears to be to delegitimize the results to such an extent that the state legislature—which holds a Republican supermajority—can step in and select him as the winner. North Carolina state law states that when “a contest arises out of the general election,” and that contest pertains “to the conduct or results of the election,” the legislature “shall determine which candidate received the highest number of votes” and “declare that candidate to be elected.”
In other words, if he creates enough doubt about the election results, McCrory can get his cronies in the legislature — the same people who voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB2 in March — to overturn the election. Moreover, the law does not open this move up to judicial review, so essentially the legislature's vote would be the final word — even though voters preferred the Democrat by a margin large enough to beat back any challenge of voter fraud. At this point, a whole county would have to be thrown out for the race to swing in McCrory's favor.
The State Board of Elections will hold a meeting to hear from the political parties, as well as the campaigns of the respective candidates, to decide whether they can suggest various counties throw out ineligible votes. Again, none of this should affect Cooper's lead. Also potentially up for contention is the state supreme court's newly Democratic slant. One Republican judge was replaced, but now the legislature is talking about adding two more judges, and letting McCrory appoint them. So much for the will of the people.
Even if the governorship and supreme court go Democratic, the Republican-controlled legislature would likely not repeal HB2. But it would still send an important message to politicians across the country (especially under a Trump presidency) that they cannot pass anti-LGBTQ laws without facing political repercussions. The boycott of the state has been a great way to add pressure, but real change can only be made by voting out these transphobic politicians.
Let's hope that democracy wins in North Carolina, because the peddlers of discrimination and fear must be held accountable at the ballot box.