Board of Elections probes mishandling of absentee ballots
Posted November 7, 2011
Updated November 8, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The way absentee votes were handled in two local campaigns has the Wake County Board of Elections throwing out ballots and looking into possible fraud charges.
Officials say more than 20 absentee ballots were mailed from a Knightdale mayoral candidates' business, which prompted an investigation. After a person casts an absentee ballot, it's illegal for anyone else to touch the ballot at all, said Director Cherie Poucher.
In the case of Jun Lee, who is running for Knightdale mayor, the number of ballots that were mailed in from Black Belt World "raised a red flag" for elections officials, Poucher said.
Poucher contacted all of the voters and were told that a Lee campaign worker, whose name was not released, delivered some of the ballots to voters and then brought them back to the business to mail them. Lee said he never touched the ballots and wasn't aware of what the campaign worker did.
Three ballots had to be thrown out, and the staffer's case is now headed to the district attorney, Poucher said.
In Morrisville, election officials threw out five absentee votes in the town council race after voters said that candidate Linda Lyons was the signed witness on their ballots and that she took possession of the ballots after voters filled them out.
Lyons, along with council member Steve Diehl, who allegedly hand-delivered six absentee ballots from voters in Lyons' district to the Board of Elections office, are now under investigation, Poucher said.
"Our job is to protect the voter and make sure they are not intimidated," she said.
Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe said that candidates need to be better advised of the rules.
"I have been a candidate twice. Neither time was I given a copy of the state statutes," she said.
She defended Lyons and Diehl.
"It is shocking because there was no intention to violate a state statute," Holcombe said.
Poucher said it is the candidate's responsibility to learn the rules and ask election officials if they have questions.
"Ignorance of the law is not a defense," she said.
Taking possession of a ballot belonging to anyone but a close relative is a felony.
Neither Lyons nor Diehl could be reached for comment.