Durham County Defends Ballot Count; Fire Burns South End Townhomes

Nov 14, 2016

The Durham County elections board is defending itself against charges by Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign of wrongful or illegal conduct in last Tuesday’s ballot count. After troubles on Election Day, the heavily Democratic County reported 94,000 ballots late.

The elections board released a detailed description of what happened after a lawyer for the state Republican Party filed a formal protest accusing the board of "malfeasance." Durham officials say every step in counting the early votes was watched by Republican members of the county board and later by a state elections official.

McCrory was in the lead for much of election night, until the 94,000 Durham votes were reported shortly before midnight. That turned the advantage to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. Cooper leads by about 5,000 votes, though the count isn’t final. 

McCrory's campaign team wants Durham County to manually recount each of the original paper ballots before reporting official results this week.

BLAZE DAMAGES TOWNHOMES UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN SOUTH END

Investigators say a three-alarm fire at a construction site in Charlotte’s South End overnight was arson.  Charlotte firefighters were called to a block of townhomes under construction on East Palmer Street around 1:45 this morning.

At one point, flames were shooting from the roof. South Tryon Street was closed and people in nearby apartments were evacuated.  Nobody was hurt and the blaze was controlled by 3 a.m. Charlotte Fire Department says it looks like the blaze was set. They’re asking for any information that might help in the investigation.

BLACK STOCKINGS MAKE A STATEMENT AT WINTHROP

Someone left black nylon stockings filled with dirt hanging from tree branches outside a building at Winthrop University in Rock Hill that’s named for an avowed racist. The 18 stockings, shaped to abstractly look like a human head and body, were found Sunday morning outside Tillman Hall, with a sign reading "Tillman's Legacy," according to university police. 

President Dan Mahony said in an email to the campus that the images were hurtful and threatening, and contrary to Winthop’s values.  He promised an investigation.

The building was vandalized at least twice in 2015. It’s named for a 19th-century governor who believed blacks were inferior and once helped lead a mob that killed four blacks.

INMATES IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT MORE THAN A DECADE

North Carolina prison officials say seven inmates have been held for more than a decade in solitary confinement, a practice that human rights advocates say amounts to torture.

The Charlotte Observer reports that a prison spokesman rejected the newspaper's request for those inmates' names. The paper was able to identify two prisoners through other means, both in solitary for 13 years.

About 2,500 North Carolina inmates are in solitary cells at any one time. As of March, 167 inmates had been in solitary confinement for more than one year each. 

FIRES HAVE BURNED 40,000 ACRES

Nearly 1600 firefighters are now fighting wildfires that have burned 40,000 acres across western North Carolina in the past three weeks. Governor Pat McCrory told reporters in Lake Lure this morning the state is experiencing California-style wildfires, and residents need to be patient.

A state of emergency is in effect for 25 western counties. Mandatory evacuations remain in effect in parts of Burke, Graham and Rutherford counties. Many roads are closed in fire areas, as well as sections of the Appalachian Trail.