RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Some county election boards sought to correct issues in the vote counting process Monday as they worked to finalize vote totals with some races still being too close to call.
Robeson County had the highest number of outstanding ballots to consider Monday, as local election officials discovered they had not included the results of 1,951 ballots from an in-person early vote site at Pembroke Fire Department in the unofficial results posted on Election Day.
County officials said Monday the issue arose because they were not used to having the additional early voting site in Pembroke. The location was added this year due to high interest in voting in this year’s election. Election officials say all results from the early voting sites were tabulated.
However, county elections director Tina Bledsoe said she neglected to get the “memory stick” from the tabulation device and include the results from that in the unofficial tally. She said no ballots were missing.
“It’s not been tampered with by any stretch. God only knows what are in these machines,” said Larry Townsend, chair of the county’s elections board.
Those results were counted and included in updated vote totals posted Monday.
The remaining votes could be critical in determining the outcome in the race for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
As additional votes have been counted since Election Day, Republican Paul Newby and Democrat Cheri Beasley have gone back and forth over who’s in the lead. As of Monday afternoon, they were separated by 231 votes out of nearly 5.4 million cast in that race.
The deadline to request a recount in a statewide race is noon Tuesday.
Washington County officials discovered they had counted mail-in ballots twice because the county “uses an older model of tabulation equipment,” according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
The county’s election board met Monday to remove the additional votes from the results posted online.
In Durham County, elections director Derek Bowens said the auditing process led county officials to discover that five people voted by mail then voted in person because they were concerned their mail-in ballots would not arrive in time to be counted. The elections board took action Monday to remove the five double votes from the total.
“It’s typical in our audit. So, as we were going through the process of finalizing the voter history, we did some additional checks and found this,” said Bowens.
As the counting continued Monday, some Republicans in the N.C. Senate said they were discussing potential changes to state law in an effort to be able to determine results as close to Election Day.
Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus/Union) criticized the legal settlement the state Board of Elections entered into earlier this year that moved the deadline for mail-in ballots to arrive at county election offices from Nov. 6 to Nov. 12. They still had to be postmarked by Election Day.
The agency had agreed to other changes as well impacting the witness requirement on mail-in ballots and ballot drop-off locations.
“One thing we could do is create an independent oversight board that ensures that the law is followed,” said Newton. “The laws should not be able to be changed by unelected bureaucrats after voting has started.”
Newton said lawmakers also could discuss changing deadlines for requesting and returning mail-in ballots.
“I’d like for North Carolina to be able to declare winners on Election Night or as close thereto as we can get it,” Newton said.
Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) said the settlement was necessary to account for the surge in interest in mail-in voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and issues at the U.S. Postal Service.
“I think right now it is just a few Republican senators trying to curry favor with Donald Trump and his voters by spreading misinformation that there was anything wrong with our elections,” said Nickel. “It’s just a slap in the face to the people who worked so hard to provide a good, solid election in the middle of this pandemic.”
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