The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 27th

Durham Elections In Dispute

Despite allegations that the Durham County Board of Elections did not follow election protocol, state Board of Elections officials said election results were not compromised.

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Bill Cobey alleged in a press release that he found ballots lying around the Durham County Board of Elections office, an unsecured ballot box, nobody in charge of the site and keys for the voting machine.

But Johnnie McLean, state Board of Elections deputy director who works with the Durham Board of Elections, said officials have corrected the errors.

"It's functioning smoothly now," McLean said. "There is no reason to doubt the integrity of the election."

She said no voters were prevented from casting their ballots and that the votes were secure.

More than 700 people have voted at the three one-stop absentee voting sites in Durham County since Monday morning. State law mandates that a one-stop absentee voting site must be established at every county's Board of Elections office.

Dan Gurley, N.C. Republican Party political director, said the incident in Durham cast a negative light on the way elections officials are managing the absentee sites.

"You've got to be able to prove your office is administered properly and well-run," Gurley said. "The public won't have confidence in elections if this isn't handled properly."

He said the increased number of one-stop or no-excuse absentee voting sites -many established near UNC-system schools or state community colleges -could lead to several voting problems.

"More possible locations for problems equals more undermining of public confidence," Gurley said.

A no-excuse absentee voting site is located at the Morehead Planetarium for voters registered in Orange County.

Gurley added that the Durham Board of Elections has had elections problems for several years.

During May campaign primaries, some Durham citizens alleged that the board failed to inform them of changes in voting districts, McLean said.

Sandy Shanahan, state Board of Elections trainer, said state Board of Elections officials are helping Durham's board fix its problems and are making sure Durham officials are ready to work without assistance as soon as possible.

McLean said the absentee voting process was designed to encourage more voters and eliminate possible legitimacy questions. "The absentee voting process was designed to create an audit trail and preserve the integrity of the election while at the same time allowing every qualified voter to vote."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.


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