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Over 11,000 more votes
for President recorded in North Carolina county than were actually
we have this story in the New
Bern Sun Journal:
A systems software
glitch in Craven County's electronic voting equipment is being
blamed for a vote miscount that, when corrected, changed the outcome
of at least one race in Tuesday's election.
Then, in the rush to make right the miscalculation that swelled the
number of votes for president here by 11,283 more votes than the
total number cast, a human mistake further delayed accurate totals
for the 40,534 who voted.
The glitch occurred Tuesday night as absentee ballot totals for
one-stop early voting at three Craven County locations and ballots
mailed-in were being entered, said Tiffiney Miller, Craven County
Board of Elections director.
The Elections Systems and Software equipment had downloaded voting
information from nine of the county's 26 precincts and as the
absentee ballots were added, the precinct totals were added a second
time. Precincts affected were Havelock East, Havelock West, River
Bend, Cove City, Ernul, Fort Totten, Grover C. Fields, Glenburnie
and West New Bern.
An override, like those occurring when one attempts to save a
computer file that already exists, is supposed to prevent double
counting, but did not function correctly, Miller said.
Voting mess in North
Carolina apparent from disappearing, missing, "appearing", double-counted and uncounted votes
Via reader radtimes,
here is a piece in the Charlotte
Double and triple
counting votes. Not counting votes. Losing votes. Election Day is
gone, but the election's still not over in several N.C. counties,
including Mecklenburg. Troubling Election Day flubs have kept the
vote counting going.
The biggie was in
Carteret County, where more than 4,500 early ballots were lost
because the maker of the county's voting machines did not update the
computer software. The company said the machines would hold 10,000
votes; in fact, they were programmed to hold just over 3,000. The
mistake literally disfranchised voters and could cause not only a
new election in Carteret, but maybe even a new statewide vote in
state races where those lost votes might determine the outcome.
A whopping mistake
discovered Tuesday in Gaston County could negate the need for such a
revote, though. During their canvass of last week's results, Gaston
officials found about 12,000 votes that had not been counted. They
were mostly early and absentee votes that officials said were in
their computer system but not released from the machines when other
votes were tallied. The number of uncounted votes is larger than the
margin of victory for state commissioner of agriculture and
superintendent of public instruction and could change the outcome of
These mistakes don't
inspire confidence in the voting process. Neither does what happened
in Mecklenburg County. Elections Director Michael Dickerson said
human error caused ballots from at least seven machines used for
early voting to be counted twice, and seven others not to be counted
at all. The resulting error, spotted by county Republicans, left two
county commissioner seats unresolved for a week. Challenges are
still likely even with the official tally.
A state study
commission will convene as early as this week to decide how to
overhaul North Carolina's hodgepodge of voting machines - including
the one that lost about 4,500 votes in Carteret County.
included an election night miscount in Mecklenburg County and the
delayed discovery of 13,200 ballots in Gaston County. National and
state experts said those cases are not unusual and other states saw
Despite all 100
counties reporting unofficial results in North Carolina's Nov. 2
election, the outcome of two statewide races won't be known for
Protests and requests
for recounts have been filed by candidates for agriculture
commissioner and superintendent of public instruction, forcing
election workers to again labor over the more than 3 million ballots
cast. They have until Wednesday to complete the task.
As recounts and
protests go on, the quest to restore voter confidence is taking
officials will meet Monday to review a request from six
congressional Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte,
for an investigation of voting problems in North Carolina and other
states. Watt said he wants the Government Accountability Office to
scrutinize the laws and processes nationwide.
ultimately is to get to a system where people vote," he said,
"and feel that their vote is being counted."
National experts call
Carteret County's lost votes one of the worst election flubs this
software consigned 4,500 ballots to electronic oblivion with no
backup, raising the prospect of a statewide re-vote for agriculture
officials had been assured the machine would take 10,000 ballots,
but the software had not been updated. When the machine hit its
limit, the screen said "voter log full," said UniLect
president Jack Gerbel, whose California company made the machine.
But it didn't stop
voters from thinking they'd voted, and poll workers say they never
saw the signal.
on," Gerbel said, "it will stop and not let any other
votes be counted."
reacted with the equivalent of "Well, duh!"
"You have to
wonder what kind of bonehead would design a computer system that
would hit capacity, then continue to take votes and just throw them
away," Stanford University computer science professor David
University of Iowa
computer science professor Douglas Jones, a voting-machine expert,
said the number of votes lost forever in Carteret County may be a
The fiasco has
renewed interest in machines that leave a paper trail. The mechanics
of N.C. voting vary from county to county, ranging from punch cards
to touch-screen machines.
Via reader radtimes, there's
Elections Director Sandra Page, already struggling to explain why
most early votes were omitted from the county's unofficial election
results, said Friday that her office had also omitted an entire
Responding to a
question from the Observer, Page said Gaston's unofficial results
excluded 1,209 votes cast at the Dallas Civic Center. She said she
learned of the problem one or two days after the election, but did
not correct the unofficial results until Monday.
"I guess people
are angry with us about this, but it was not done on purpose,"
she said. "It's astounding, but we just missed it."
The revisions did not
affect the outcome of any local race. And Page again insisted on
Friday that there were no errors in the county's official results.
All the votes were eventually counted, she said. The problems were
"part of the reporting process, not part of the voting
But it is the second
time in a week Page has conceded a major error in the unofficial
results her office sent to the state and published online after the
Nov. 2 election. She announced Tuesday that she had discovered the
absence of about 12,000 early votes.
Page said she still
cannot explain how the errors occurred. In different interviews with
the Observer, she has blamed human error and computer error for each
of the problems. And she said Friday that she has yet to contact the
manufacturer of the county's voting system, Diebold Election
Also see this
article with more foul-ups, via Brad
Blog, and this
one via Votersunite
one and this
one via reader LV.
This is another incident reported in
Star, via reader LV:
Precinct officials in
Casar searched the volunteer fire department for 120 missing ballots
last night, but none were found.
Democratic and Republican Party leaders said election certification is
a two-tiered process, with the vote tallies from each precinct being
compared to what was reported to the Board of Elections on election
night. This is called the canvass and is usually done about a week
after the election.
The second part, called certification, counts the actual ballots and
compares them against the canvass totals. They counted Casar’s on
Monday and discovered the discrepancy.
There were 120 fewer ballots in the Casar box than there were votes on
the canvass, said Betsy Wells, chairman of the Cleveland County
Democratic Party, and Wes Westmoreland, her counterpart in the
Monday night, the chief judge of Casar, Debbie A. Wortman, and other
precinct officials searched the Casar Volunteer Fire Station for the
Neither Mrs. Wortman nor Debra Blanton, director of the Board of
Elections returned calls to The Star following the search.
The missing ballots prompted Mrs. Wells to write a personal letter to
Mrs. Blanton, calling for a full recount of all races in Casar.
Experts, an update
on the Cateret County problem:
When Carteret County
submits its report next week to the state elections board, the
document will include test results from the county's now-notorious
electronic voting system.
State Board of
Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett and three of his staff
members simulated an election at the Carteret County elections
office Tuesday and watched to see exactly how the electronic
The state board is
gathering all the information it can before a Nov. 23 meeting to
discuss Carteret County's Election Day problems in which 4,438
ballots were lost.
"We want to
present all the facts that we possibly can as it relates to this
issue," Bartlett said.
Only 3,005 of the
electronic ballots cast during the early voting period were properly
tallied. County officials have said they were misinformed about the
system's storage capacity. They believed it could hold up to 10,500
ballots when, if in fact, 3,005 was the limit.
In all, 7,536 voters
cast early ballots. Of those, the 3,005 valid electronic votes and
93 curbside votes verified by paper ballot were counted.
Since then, one
question that has surfaced is whether there was proper warning that
the storage capacity had been reached.
Once vote 3,016 was
cast during Tuesday's mock election, a message reading "Voter
Log Full" appeared in a text window on the control unit
operating the 12 ballot machines, Bartlett said.
He said the fact that
the warning did not appear until after vote 3,005 could be due to
variations in the types of ballots cast Tuesday as compared to those
cast during the real election. For instance, he said, there are
differences in straight and split tickets.
While the warning
message did show, it did not appear continuously, Bartlett said. The
message would disappear from the screen after the machine was reset
for the next vote, he said.
"It might pop up
a second or it might be (longer) depending on how long before the
next vote," Bartlett said.
Carteret County Board
of Elections Chairman Ed Pond has said in correspondence to the
equipment manufacturer that such a message was never detected or
noticed during the early voting period. And the numbers counted by
the control unit always matched with the number of voters in the
poll books, election officials said.
The fact that the
machine continued to count ballots even after storage capacity was
reached was also confirmed during this week's re-creation.
radtimes, an update
on Carteret County:
Voters in one North
Carolina county can return to the polls next month to recast ballots
that were lost due to a malfunctioning e-voting machine in the
The state's Board of
Elections voted last week to allow about 4,400 Carteret County
residents whose votes were lost -- along with 19,600 who didn't go
to the polls -- to cast ballots Jan. 11 for the state agriculture
That was the only
state or local race close enough for the 4,400 votes to make a
difference, said Robert Cordle, one of five members of the board.
Via reader LV, an update in the Shelby
It’s no mystery
where the 120 missing ballots from the Casar precinct are.
“Under two feet of dirt in the landfill,” said Cleveland County
Board of Elections Director Debra Blanton.
The provisional ballots sought Monday night at the Casar Volunteer
Fire Department had been found in an envelope by someone at the fire
department in a routine cleanup after elections, according to Debbie
Wortman, Casar precinct’s chief judge. Not knowing exactly what
they were, the clean-up crew put the ballots in the trash, she said.
Mrs. Blanton said it is her understanding that the board will have
to certify the votes with the ballots they have in hand. However,
Mrs. Blanton e-mailed the director and attorney for the N.C. Board
of Elections, asking what to do.
The state responds to election problems in order of priority. By
Tuesday’s end, she hadn’t received instructions from the state.
The trashed ballots affect the N.C. Superintendent of Public
Instruction and N.C. Secretary of Agriculture races. If the ballots
do affect the outcome, it would be a “very small” difference,
she said, because they are statewide races.
The elections board still has the vote totals from the Nov. 2
general election, so every vote was counted, said Mrs. Blanton.
The ballots were lost after everything was recorded, she said.
Here’s how Mrs. Wortman describes what happened to the ballots:
When polls close, voted ballots must be transferred from the voting
tub to a secured box. The box is used to take the ballots to the
elections board office.
On Election Day, a provisional ballot was mistakenly put in the
voting machine. Poll workers were to open the machine to find the
misplaced ballot, marked with a red line, and put it into an
envelope. For 15 to 20 minutes, poll workers individually flipped
through stacks of ballots to find the provisional one.
Mrs. Wortman’s guess is that a stack got pushed to the side. When
it came time to seal the ballot box, the stack was overlooked.
It wasn’t until the ballot recount Monday — two weeks later —
that poll workers realized ballots were missing, she said.
Mrs. Blanton said the ballots were run through a machine again
Monday. Workers expected to get a count of 780 votes but instead the
machine counted 660.
Older News: North Carolina
Mecklenburg County Republicans attempt to suppress voters by rejecting
state funds for early voting; later relent under criticism
Via the PFAW/NAACP
report, here is one of the first reports in the Charlotte
Observer (bold text is my emphasis):
commissioners may reverse a controversial attempt to stop Sunday
voting that prompted outrage from Democrats and accusations of voter
suppression on Wednesday.
Chairman Tom Cox has called a special meeting for Friday afternoon
[10/22/04] to reconsider a party-line vote from Tuesday night's meeting. Led
by Republicans, the commissioners voted 5-3 not to accept a state
grant for early voting because local elections officials planned to
use part of the money for voting this Sunday.
Voting will happen
Sunday as scheduled at four libraries and the Board of Elections.
Elections director Michael Dickerson said his office will
appropriate other funds until the commissioners make a final
has sparked a partisan, racially charged debate and interrupted the
plans of many groups -- including several black churches -- for a
"Souls to the Polls" effort after services on Sunday.
vote will backfire, said Danielle Obiorah, chair of the Black
"I think it's
going to mobilize people. People are upset. People are angry,"
she said. "It essentially says that the only way we can win is
if we prevent people from voting. And in a democracy, we want people
After the close 2000
election, both parties are on edge nationally, watching for any
change in the electoral process that could give either side an
discussed Tuesday was a $55,992 grant from the state elections
majority argued that in September, the Democratic-controlled local
and state elections boards improperly added a four-hour window for
voting this Sunday afternoon.
Arguing that one
partisan turn deserves another, some Republican commissioners said
they would spend the money -- only if Sunday voting were canceled.
"I can play as
tough and as hardball as any Democrat any place in the United
States," Republican commissioner Bill James said Wednesday.
"And I can shove it right back in their face the same way
they're trying to shove it down the throats of the public."
alleged Wednesday that Republicans were simply trying to limit some
voters' access to ballots.
"It is a
terrible, terrible insult to democracy and to the voters of
Mecklenburg County to say that we are not going to do everything we
can do to make voting as convenient as possible," U.S. Rep. Mel
Watt, D-N.C., of Charlotte, said at a news conference.
Cox, a Republican,
said he wanted to make sure the county's actions were legal, so the
debate Friday may turn on a close reading of the state statutes that
govern early voting and the county's responsibility to pay for it.
The law requires that
county elections boards (which currently have two Democrats and one
Republican in all counties) must make unanimous decisions about
certain early-voting procedures. The state board, which also has a
Democratic majority, can make the final call if there is a split
officials adopted a unanimous plan early this year, and that's the
one that should have remained in place, said Republican commissioner
But in September, the
local board split on the Sunday plan, which would cost about $5,000.
Samuelson said she
did not know how she would vote at Friday's special meeting.
frustrating to me, because on my part it was clearly never meant to
be a racist vote, and people who know me would say that is the
farthest thing from my mind," she said. "It was also not
meant to create a firestorm. I just didn't want to have my hand
rubber-stamping something that was not right."
State law requires
the county commissioners to pay for early voting, but Republicans
argued that they could force the elections office to find the money
elsewhere in its $2.9 million budget, instead of using the state
Don Wright, general
counsel to the State Board of Elections, said local and state
elections officials followed state law.
not to accept the grant could have future ramifications for the
county, said state Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg.
time they come whining to us for money," he said, "I'll
advocates say early voting and Sunday voting make it easier for
people with busy schedules to cast ballots.
Mary Klenz, state
co-president of the League of Women Voters, said she had trouble
understanding the commissioners' decision.
"I can't imagine
elected officials trying to stop people from voting," she said.
"What could they be thinking of?"
Cox said he has grown
to abhor the political influence in the democratic process, from
redistricting to voting procedures.
Cox added he does not
know what will happen Friday. Already, James has said he cannot
attend the meeting because he has child-care responsibilities.
Republican Vice Chairman Dan Ramirez is trying to reschedule an
out-of-town appointment. Democrat Parks Helms, who was absent
Tuesday, is back in town.
"As the story
unfolds," Cox said, "I'm not sure where it's going to
to the firestorm, the commission changed course and vowed to accept
a state grant to pay for the Sunday voting.[i]
Richard Rubin, "Board Rethinks Sunday Voting," Charlotte Observer, 10/21/04; Richard Rubin, "Sunday Voting
Okay; Meeting Canceled," Charlotte