CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. — Election officials in Carteret County are scrambling after a machine malfunction destroyed 13 percent of the ballots. The incident may lead to a special election in the state superintendent race that currently has Democrat June Atkinson ahead of Republican Bill Fletcher by more than 2,000 votes.
The state Board of Elections discovered on election night that 4,532 electronic ballots through early voting were not recorded.
"The bottom line that we have heard from the manufacturer is that these votes are not missing. They're lost," county commissioner-elect Tom Steepy said. "It's very disheartening. It really is."
Carteret County had one stop for early voting. Twelve electronic booths fed into one electronic system that was expected to hold just over 10,000 votes. In reality, it only held just over 3,000. Officials said anyone who voted after 11 a.m. on Oct. 22 through Oct. 30 did not get their ballot counted.
"The company has admitted now that it was its error and that it was a simple keystroke that should have been applied to the system perhaps several years ago and was not," said Ed Pond, of the Carteret County Board of Elections.
Pond said Unilect, the manufacturer, failed to make a necessary software upgrade. Pond would not let WRAL see the machine in question, but he has the letter the California company sent to the state explaining the mistake.
"It's kind of tragic that we dropped the ball and some elections could hinge on our numbers," early voter Troy Edwards said.
No votes cast on Election Day were lost in Carteret County. Burke County is the only other North Carolina county to use the machines. It had the software upgrade and did not have problems.