Raleigh, N.C. — The chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections on Tuesday defended his staff's actions in last week's elections, after a lawyer for the state Republican Party accused the county of miscounting more than 90,000 ballots.
Thomas Stark, general counsel for the GOP and a Durham County voter, filed a protest over the weekend with the Durham County Board of Elections, alleging malfeasance in the accuracy of the vote count.
Poll workers said the data cards with voting totals from five early voting sites and one Election Day precinct couldn't be read by the county computer, so they printed off the results and recorded those into the computer manually.
Stark said in his complaint that those results cannot be trusted, but Bill Brian, chairman of the Durham County elections board, said there's no proof of that.
"I would like everybody to know that we, as of today, and I say this absolutely with no hesitance, we have seen no evidence whatsoever that there's any inaccuracy or any problem with any of the returns that were reported on Election Day," Brian said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We have no reason to believe that the returns that came back on the paper tapes are in any way inaccurate or any different than they would have been had the cards read into the machines read properly."
The elections board will hold a Wednesday hearing to determine if Stark's protest is justified and a recount is needed.
The count is especially important in the gubernatorial race, where Democrat Roy Cooper leads Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by fewer than 5,000 votes. McCrory had been in the lead until late on Election Night, when Durham County reported the results of the disputed 93,000 ballots.
Cooper's campaign has said that the complaint is an effort to undermine the election results. The campaign noted that the majority of the Durham County Board of Elections is Republican appointments made by McCrory.
Separate from the dispute over Election Night returns, the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into how Durham County handled thousands of provisional ballots during the March primary. Some ballots were counted twice, and the State Board of Elections had to allow some people a second chance to vote because their provisional ballots weren't counted but should have been.
Republican officials have cited the issue with the provisional primary ballots as evidence that Durham County election results are unreliable.
"Instead of inexplicably trying to protect their damaged reputation and prejudging the outcome, the Durham County Board of Elections should focus on ensuring votes are properly counted," Ricky Diaz, a spokesman for McCrory's campaign, said in a statement. "If they are right, there's no harm in a recount of the precincts in question, and if they are wrong, the recount will correct errors and resolve legitimate concerns."
Brian takes issue with the stance that his staff is trying to hide something.
"Durham County does not have a history of bad elections. Durham County does not have a history of being unable to complete its elections or have fair elections or anything like that," he said. "There’s been some loose language that’s been used by some of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the election."
The McCrory campaign also alleged voter fraud in Bladen County on Tuesday, noting a protest filed by a local candidate claims that hundreds of mail-in absentee ballots appear to have been signed by the same people.
"With hundreds of fraudulent votes found in just one North Carolina county for a straight Democratic ticket, close examination of this election is required to make sure the true winner of the election is properly determined," Jason Torchinsky, a lawyer for the Pat McCrory Committee Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement.