Some Durham voters getting another chance to cast primary ballot
Posted May 31, 2016
Updated June 1, 2016
Durham, N.C. — Scores of Durham County ballots that weren't counted in the March primary were tallied Tuesday, and state officials said hundreds of other voters would be allowed to cast their ballots again because of mistakes by county elections workers.
During a contentious State Board of Elections hearing, board member Joshua Malcolm blasted Durham County elections officials for a "lack of oversight and incompetence" as the board tried to sort out how to handle more than 1,000 provisional ballots.
Voters cast provisional ballots when they encounter an administrative problem, such as voting in the wrong precinct.
State officials discovered during an audit of primary results that some ballots were missing, ballots that should not have counted may have been counted and other ballots may have been counted twice. Of the roughly 1,900 provisional ballots that were mishandled, Durham County elections officials said they believed only 1,039 should count.
The State Board of Elections voted to tabulate only 147 of those ballots on Tuesday because it couldn't guarantee the validity of the others.
"Those other ones were lost beyond retrieval, could not be traced back definitively to a particular individual," said Josh Lawson, general counsel for the state board.
Rather than throw out the other 892 provisional ballots that officials agreed should count, the state board decided to contact those voters by mail to offer them another chance to cast their primary ballot.
The logistics of the new vote haven't been set, but the State Board of Elections would be in charge of counting the ballots, officials said.
"The board's role here today is that we don't have irregularities that would have changed outcomes (of primary races)," Lawson said.
Officials said no results from primary would be affected by the re-vote.
State officials have been consulting with the Durham County District Attorney's Office on whether criminal charges are warranted in the debacle – tampering with election results is a felony – but there was no word Tuesday evening on whether any charges would be filed.