Durham News

N.C. Board of Elections refers provisional ballot case to district attorney

The State Board of Elections has handed its criminal investigation into the mishandling of provisional ballots to Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols.

“We refer things that we think have merit,” said Josh Lawson, an attorney for the Board of Elections. “We don’t refer dead ends.”

It’s now up to Echols to decide whether he wants to prosecute the case or make the Board of Elections’ investigation documents public. Efforts to reach Echols for comment were unsuccessful.

Since early April, the State Board of Elections has been investigating Durham County’s handling of provisional ballots during the March 15 primary.

A discrepancy, discovered after the local results were certified, suggests staff members counted about 200 provisional ballots twice to match how many eligible provisional ballots its records showed were cast.

Provisional ballots are used when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility.

A temporary employee told Michael Perry, director of the Durham County Board of Elections, that another staffer directed her to run the ballots twice to get the numbers to match, according to emails.

Other employees described an unopened and uncounted tote of ballots present after everything was completed. The tote of ballots was never found after the discrepancy was discovered.

Making a fraudulent entry on elections books and certifying, delivering or transmitting false returns are Class I felonies.

State elections officials have said the provisional ballots would not change the results of any races, but over the summer new ballots were sent to about 900 provisional voters whose ballots weren’t counted due to the mishandling.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges