Wake County

Election results came in late for the Raleigh City Council. Was humidity to blame?

Raleigh city council member Bonner Gaylord and mayor Nancy McFarlane look at election returns on a cell phone Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, 2017 at Brewery Bhavana in downtown Raleigh.
Raleigh city council member Bonner Gaylord and mayor Nancy McFarlane look at election returns on a cell phone Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, 2017 at Brewery Bhavana in downtown Raleigh. tlong@newsobserver.com

The humidity is affecting more than your hairdo.

Officials with the Wake County Board of Elections think the humidity, which has hovered around 90 percent in the Triangle this week, slowed the process of tallying votes Tuesday night in the Raleigh municipal elections.

Polls closed at 7:30 p.m., but the elections board didn’t post results online for some precincts until nearly 11 p.m. – much later than usual.

At election parties, supporters and candidates for mayor and seven City Council seats hovered around computer monitors and cellphones, hitting the “refresh” button on the Board of Elections website. Some speculated the results were late because turnout was high or because some races were close. Runoffs seem likely in the mayoral, at-large and District E races.

But Gary Sims, director of the Wake elections board, said it had more to with technology. To post results online, each precinct uploads election data through a traditional phone line that uses a modem.

“There are only a few counties (in North Carolina) that do the modem,” Sims said. “What that requires is a pristine connection, because it has to sync up for us to verify the data packs, to make sure we have a secure connection.”

Sims said land lines are becoming antiquated and communications companies aren’t doing as much to maintain them.

“The only thing we can figure with the humidity, with the heat, the ground getting a little saturated, those phone lines aren’t being maintained as well as they were, and we’re starting to notice that more and more as the years go by,” Sims said.

Charles Francis, candidate for mayor of Raleigh, talks about the delay in results during an election night party at The Big Easy in Raleigh Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.

The elections board plans to conduct an analysis to verify what caused the delay. Regardless of the reason, Sims said, the technological glitches Tuesday night meant some precinct officials had to drive their ballots to downtown Raleigh to be counted.

“Any of those (ballot results) that didn’t transmit as part of our routine process, we bring all our tabulators in and use the data cards, and it’s a point-to-point data upload,” Sims said.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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