“A few days after our canvass, a temporary staff member asked to speak with me privately. She tearfully told me that when tabulating provisional ballots, she was told by a Board of Elections member to run some ballots a second time to get the ballot count number to match,” said Michael Perry, director of the Durham County Board of Elections, in an email.
Other staffers confirmed to Perry that they had been given the same instructions. The ballots were counted again, and hundreds were found to be missing. When asked, the supervisor said he did not know where the ballots had gone. According to Perry, that supervising staff member handed in his resignation two weeks later.
“The director who did this must be held fully accountable — they must be criminally charged for this. They had a sacred responsibility — they were entrusted with the voice of the people,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy NC.
“In order to determine if criminal charges would be appropriate, the Durham Board of Elections will defer to the State Board of Elections, who will investigate the individual responsible, as well as the entire electoral procedure, comprehensively in order to check for further inconsistencies,” Perry said.
The Durham BOE said in a statement Thursday, “The State Board of Elections has been conducting an investigation, with which the Durham County Board of Elections has been cooperating fully... The Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, Ms. Kim Strach’s likely recommendation will be that the Durham County Board of Elections re-canvass the election results, without including the provisional ballots. This then will allow the State Board of Elections to certify the election results. When the investigation is complete, its results will be announced to the public.”
The statement also said, “The Durham County Board of Elections will be studying ways to insure that no such event ever can happen again. It is important to the Durham County Board of Elections that we preserve the integrity of the electoral process.”
“Voting rights advocates remain hopeful that this investigation and the resulting reforms to electoral procedure in Durham County will improve confidence in the electoral process,” Hall said.
“This particular problem in Durham County may be as quick a fix as procedural reforms to ensure the accountability of election officials. More people are disenfranchised by human error than by voter fraud. But the staff of the State Board are professionals with a serious commitment to protecting N.C. voters.”
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said he also “trusts the State BOE will act in good faith to reform voting procedures across the state before the November general election, and that it is imperative they do so.”
“Our democracy is only as strong as the faith the people have in the credibility of the electoral process,” Phillips said.