RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With in-person early voting starting this week for the primary, local election officials on Monday said they’re concerned about how easily disinformation is spreading as they work to ensure the results will be accurate.
“The fundamental issue is that the work that goes into conducting elections, it’s largely out of view,” said Tim Tsujii, elections director for Forsyth County, during a press conference hosted by the non-partisan Common Cause NC.
Voters will begin casting ballots Thursday at early voting sites across the state in the lead-up to the primary election on May 17.
Tsujii said while disinformation has been present in elections for a long time, he says it’s become an even greater challenge to combat in recent years.
“It’s blown up to be moreso prevalent, a challenge for election administrators across the country, in light of the 2020 election,” he said.
Michael Dickerson, elections director in Mecklenburg County, noted each ballot has a unique identify number as part of an effort to ensure people do not vote twice, which is a felony in North Carolina.
That issue gained greater attention in 2020 when former President Donald Trump suggested during a visit to the Tar Heel state that people voting by mail attempt to vote a second time in person as he raised doubts about the security of mail-in voting.
“I would hope the thought of being arrested you stop you,” he said. “It is very frustrating. We have dedicated our lives to doing this.”
A few weeks ago, county election officials across the state undertook logic and accuracy testing. During this process, test ballots that are hand-marked and ballots that are filled out by ballot-marking devices are counted by the tabulators to make sure the results the machines produce are correct.
Those devices are not connected to the Internet, and state law also requires a paper record of all ballots cast for audits and recounts.
During a visit to Wake County’s elections office earlier this month, election officials demonstrated the process and showed that tabulators that pass the tests receive a tamper-proof security sticker before they’re sent to the various precincts.
Before each election, local officials also take part in a mock election event which simulates what happens on the night of the primary when they submit results to the state to be reported to the public.
An Axios-Momentive poll released earlier this year found only 55 percent of people believe President Joe Biden legitimately won the election despite no evidence of widespread fraud occurring.
A separate poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst shortly before that found 71 percent of Republicans view Biden’s win as illegitimate. Former President Donald Trump has continued to make unproven claims of widespread fraud since the 2020 election.
“We are very energized. We’re very eager to get these elections and pull them off. We’re doing our jobs. We’re administrators. We are not picking a winner. We are not handicapping a race,” said Dickerson.