Durham News

McCrory campaign concerned about late votes; Durham says there’s nothing to worry about

Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign expressed concern Wednesday about 90,000 Durham County votes that came in late Tuesday night, but local officials say there’s nothing to worry about.

“The total would have been the same whether it came in at 7 p.m. or it came in at midnight,” said Bill Brian, chair of the Durham County Board of Elections.

County officials completed their voting reporting about 11:45 p.m. Tuesday. They had to manually enter information after they were unable to download data from six cards that saved information from ballot tabulators.

Votes cast at precincts and one-stop voting locations are stored on data storage cards and recorded on a tape. Election officials typically download the information from cards to quickly report it to the State Board of Elections. On Tuesday night they couldn’t pull data off six cards, said Kate Cosner, interim director for the Durham County Board of Elections.

Five of the cards were from one-stop voting locations, and one was from Precinct 29, at Glenn Elementary School. In response, officials reviewed the information on the tapes and entered it manually.

Two board members, a Democrat and Republican, participated in the process, Cosner said.

“One called the numbers out, while I entered the numbers,” Cosner said. “And another one watched.”

After the numbers in the left-leaning county were entered, it pushed Attorney General Roy Cooper ahead of McCrory in a tight race that won’t be called until the provisional ballots across the state are counted.

McCrory mentioned Durham County and “the sudden emergence of over 90,000 votes” in the speech he made just after midnight Tuesday. As the audience booed, McCrory promised to “check everything” and to make sure every vote counts.

In a statement Wednesday, McCrory strategist Chris LaCivita said they had “grave concerns over potential irregularities in Durham County,” including the votes that showed up late.

Election challenges in Durham County started at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday when five to six precincts reported electronic voting software issues with a system the county started using in March.

It appeared data from prior elections had not been cleared out and erroneously indicated some people had already voted, Brian said.

In response, Cosner ordered all polling places to switch to a manual system. The switch, and related challenges, halted voting in some precincts from five minutes to up to 90 minutes. The State Board of Elections allowed eight polling places to stay open an extra 20 to 60 minutes after gathering information indicating they had been down for more than 15 minutes, which is required by state law.

It’s unclear when there will be an answer about what happened with the electronic voting software Tuesday morning. Cosner’s working with the vendor, Tallahassee, Florida-based VR Systems, but said her main focus is getting accurate voting numbers for the Nov. 18 canvas.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

A history of Durham County election challenges

1990: Faulty voting machines and problems with paper ballots forced many precincts in Durham to remain open until 10 p.m.

2006: Voting was extended at one precinct after it opened nearly an hour late because an employee at the voting site was late unlocking the building.

2016 primary: Durham County moved a precinct on N.C. Central University’s campus from the student union to the law school during early voting and kept it there for the primary, but didn’t update the change on its website until about 4 p.m.

Durham County election officials discovered after the local results were certified that staff members had improperly counted about 200 provisional ballots twice to match how many eligible provisional ballots its records showed were cast.

News researcher Teresa Leonard