Durham elections board begins recount, which could stretch into Monday
Posted December 2, 2016
Updated December 4, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The Durham County Board of Elections on Saturday began a recount of more than 94,000 votes one day earlier than planned as it tries to comply with a State Board of Elections order to complete the recount by Monday evening.
Officials had counted almost 20,000 votes by Saturday evening, and Bill Brian, chairman of the county elections board, said it will continue through the day Sunday and likely into Monday.
The State Board of Elections ordered the Durham recount of ballots tabulate during early voting and at one Election Day precinct. The Durham board requested an extension Friday, but that request was denied.
"The order that we received from the state board was an order that, it seems to me, was designed to cause us to fail," said an exasperated Brian. "I don't know why that order was entered in that way, and I don't know whose interest it is in for us to fail."
Durham County officials reported the results from the six disputed sites late on Election Night because technical problems with the memory cards from the voting machines forced them to transcribe vote totals by hand.
The late votes pushed Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper ahead of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the gubernatorial race, and the McCrory campaign and GOP officials statewide have questioned the accuracy of the tallies ever since. Cooper's lead in the race stood at about 10,250 votes on Friday.
"We need to move forward and get this done," Brian said Saturday. "I'm exhausted by it, and I think (Durham) is exhausted by it."
Brian said counting write-in ballots alone would take about 36 hours, noting they have to tally the votes from every race, not just the gubernatorial contest.
"We have to run the county commissioners races. We have to run the soil and water races. We have to run all the races," Brian said. "That means that somebody needs to count the write-ins as well, and that is a very, very long and tedious process."
County elections officials brought in 26 tabulating machines – they had to get an electrician to sign off that the wiring in the office could handle the load – and hired 52 people to feed ballots into them. Brian said the effort will cost at least $35,000.
"We haven't done a budgetary analysis to determine where the money is coming from. Right now, the money is coming out of the pockets of the people of Durham County," he said.
Meanwhile, the state Republican Party said Friday that it's prepared to sue the county, alleging that local officials are violating state public records laws by not allowing them to inspect absentee ballot envelopes. Elections officials said they had to suspend the inspection Thursday afternoon to free up staff and space for the recount but that the inspection could resume once the recount was over.