Local Politics

Durham elections board votes to hear evidence in GOP recount demand

Posted November 16, 2016

— Following a complaint filed by a North Carolina Republican Party attorney, the Durham County Board of Elections voted Wednesday to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a recount of 94,000 general election ballots is warranted.

GOP general counsel Thomas Stark filed the complaint last week, saying an error in the machines that count ballots makes the current vote count unreliable. The board passed the motion by a 2-1 vote and will hold the hearing on Friday, which is the normal day for county canvasses to certify election results.

"We should err on the side of giving people the opportunity to make their points, and that's not pre-judging any of the evidence nor is it making a comment one way or the other," elections board Chairman Bill Brian said. "This is a highly charged issue."

Brian and elections board member Margaret Griffin voted to move forward with the hearing, while board member Dawn Braxton voted against proceeding.

The equipment glitch forced a tedious process of manually entering the early ballots late on Nov. 8, and mistakes were possible, Brian said at a news conference. But multiple elections officials were watching as the results were tallied, and spot-checks also were performed that night, he said.

"That raises a question," said Stark, a Durham County resident. "My reasoning was, if you have a question, you double-check."

Durham County voted heavily for Democrat Roy Cooper in the gubernatorial race both during early voting and on Election Day, Brian said.

Brian said it's unlikely Gov. Pat McCrory will find the surge of extra votes in Durham County that the Republican needs to reverse Cooper's statewide lead and win re-election.

"There was no wildly disharmonious result," he said. "If the returns had been reported at 7:30 (p.m. when polls closed), they would have been the same numbers as were reported at 11:30. It just took us that long to input them into the machines. There's nothing the least bit odd about any of it."

Stark said it "makes sense" to recount the ballots to ensure vote totals are accurate.

"I think the board simply ought to just recount them and move on," he said.

The focus on Durham County's votes is likely to sharpen as McCrory and Cooper continue waging their too-close-to-call contest. Cooper led Tuesday in unofficial results by about 5,000 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast.

McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said he was pleased the county board would hold a hearing on the disputed ballots, saying the State Board of Elections has identified several errors in Durham County's numbers.

"We believe it is in everyone's best interest to get to the bottom of what happened so that people can have faith in the results, process and system," Diaz said in a statement.

Brian Neesby, a business systems analyst for the state elections board, stated in an affidavit filed Tuesday that he compared the manual tabulations with those from the machines and found several discrepancies, mostly in the Durham County Board of Commissioners race. None of the other errors – the largest was off by 27 votes – was in the gubernatorial race, according to the affidavit.

Brian, a registered Republican, said he resents the continued suggestion that voting in Durham is suspect.

"Somehow, in counties that have majority African-American populations, we have to recount twice because we can’t trust them," he said of such arguments. "I don’t appreciate that at all. ... Durham has a long history of conducting good elections."

Republicans have also challenged mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen and Halifax counties, claiming that the same few people witnessed numerous ballots.


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  • Carl Keehn Nov 17, 2016
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    Perhaps you need to review your knowledge of State Government. Budgets are set by the Legislature, not the Governor. Bills are passed by the Legislature, not the Governor. If there is any debt or social engineering you have to look to the Republican Supermajority Legislature.

    At best he will another Beverly Perdue, vetos will be overridden by the Legislature.

    If you want to look at fault for HB2, you're looking in the wrong direction. It was our state Legislature that wrote a poorly written and unenforceable bill, as a means of passing all the acts that they were unable to move during the previous legislative session.

  • Amy Whaley Nov 17, 2016
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    It is not unreasonable to ask for a recount when there is such a small margin in the number of votes. Makes one feel that Durham County has something to hide. A Superior Court Judge was recently quoted as saying, "Durham historically hasn’t figured out how to carry out an election properly." Just recount!

    Also, is WRAL not reporting on the fraudulent votes found in Bladen County? Apparently there were hundreds of them and they are all straight ticket Democrat. The people have a right to know.

  • Chad Stinner Nov 17, 2016
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    As I watched McCrory defend Duke Energy on it's coal ash pond issue and screw over teachers repeatedly, and finally vote HB2 into law I'm glad he's out.

    I don't know what it takes to bring a stand up individual to govern but McCrory definitely wasn't it.

  • Mare Procellis Nov 16, 2016
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    I got U-Haul on the phone, Pat. They want to know how many boxes.

  • Ben Hill Nov 16, 2016
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    You disagree with a person's comment but instead of offering an informed rebuttal you opt for a personal attack? That exact same juvenile mentality is a large part of America's problems right now.

  • Clarence Hill Nov 16, 2016
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    Just think, the recount could already completed. Fact: a recount will take place--sooner or later. So, get it over with and quit the stalling.

  • Cameron Horn Nov 16, 2016
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    I can help count ... 1 for you 2 for me

  • Doug Bogard Nov 16, 2016
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    I vote in Durham. I voted in the primary and general election.
    In the primary they were having issues with the laptops that held the voters roll.
    During the general election, they had the same issue.
    With todays tech, it should not take 20 minutes to log into a program with the voters roll on it.
    However the Durham election people managed to do just that.
    I will go further to suggest that the primary was a warmup for the general election.
    With their end goal being to have the vote open longer than intended. And this is from an eye witness who votes in Durham.

  • Sean Chen Nov 16, 2016
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    I agree with Just a Mann, just do the recount and move on. Better to do it right than have a dark cloud hanging over the election.

    Figure out who won carefully, declare the winner, and move on.

    Oh, and Roy Cooper is a slime ball owned by Goldman Sachs who has proven time and again that his own gain is more important than our state.

    Nevertheless, if he wins fairly, we deserve what we get. More debt, more social justice issues, and higher taxes… chasing our jobs away… like he did pushing the HB2 boycott hurting NC to improve his chances at the governorship.

    Apparently, such unethical tactics that hurt NC worked in his favor.

  • Xander Bogaerts Nov 16, 2016
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    We will ALL have to accept the outcome, once Cooper is confirmed (which I believe he will be). The same way Hillary gracefully accepted the outcome of the election. Door swings both ways...