Durham County elections officials outline problems on Election Day

The Durham County Board of Elections on Tuesday, Election Day, discussing how long to keep a certain polling place open past the 7:30 planned closure. Photo by Derrick Lewis/CBS North Carolina
The Durham County Board of Elections on Tuesday, Election Day, discussing how long to keep a certain polling place open past the 7:30 planned closure. Photo by Derrick Lewis/CBS North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The Durham County Board of Elections released a statement Sunday amid a tight uncalled race for governor.

UPDATE: ‘No evidence whatsoever’ of problems with election returns, Durham County election official says

The statement from Durham officials explains several “minor complications” that happened starting early on Election Day, the email from the elections board said.

The North Carolina Republican Party has called into question the addition of around 90,000 votes to the total count that came in late Tuesday night.

According to Durham County elections officials, most of the 90,000+ votes were early voting results that could not be added electronically due to a malfunction with the vote counting software.

The votes had to be manually uploaded and the county board — in conjunction with the state board — decided to delay that process until after election day results were entered as to not slow down those results.

Around 10 p.m. on Election Day, a Democratic and Republican member of the county board of elections and the interim director of elections began the manual entry process under the supervision of the state board.

Various other observers also were present.

Below is the full statement from Durham County Board of Elections on Sunday afternoon:

Durham County Board of Elections Statement Regarding Minor Complications on Election Day

 DURHAM, N.C.-  At 6:45 am on Tuesday, November 8th, the Durham County Board of Elections staff received phone calls from precincts 9, 19, 20, 31, 39 and 44 alerting them to problems which had occurred with the electronic poll book system that is used to verify voter registrations and to print authorization to vote forms (ATV). The ATV forms are the forms signed by voters when they arrive to vote, before they are given a paper ballot. The Durham County Board of Elections Staff alerted the staff of the State Board of Elections of these problems, and the State Board’s staff directed the staff of the Durham County Board to implement the Durham Board’s existing emergency back-up plan, and switch from the electronic poll books to paper poll books at all precincts. This switch caused a minimal interruption in service at most precincts, and people were allowed to continue voting without further incident.

At 1:00pm, staff at the Durham County Board of Elections learned that the staff operating the Bethesda Ruritan Club polling location had shut that location down without authorization for an hour and a half, because they had run out of ATV forms. By this time, a new supply of forms had been received at that location, and voting there had resumed.  That location experienced only limited wait times for the remainder of the voting period.

Throughout the day, the Durham County Board of Elections staff was in regular communication with the staff of the State Board of Elections and a member of the State Board of Elections staff was stationed at the Durham County Board of Elections to assist as needed. Also, after hearing of the issues with the electronic poll books, Durham County Government immediately offered assistance to the Durham County Board of Elections. Sixty Durham County employees were sent to assist with gathering and running supplies to all precincts to ensure that all precincts were fully prepared to handle the changeover from the electronic to the paper poll books.

At 1:30pm, the Durham County Board of Elections, which had been in session since 5:00 p.m. on November 7th, came out of recess to discuss submitting a request to the State Board of Elections to extend voting hours for polling locations in Durham due to the early-morning delays and voting interruptions that were caused by the problems with the electronic poll books.  By a unanimous decision of a Republican and Democrat quorum, the Durham County Board of Elections instructed the interim director to contact State Board of Elections Executive Director, Kim Strach to request that voting times be extended as needed. The staff of the State Board of Elections responded that voting hours could be extended only at polling locations where the voting process was interrupted (i.e., stopped) for more than 15 minutes, and stated further that evidence would need to be collected of voting interruptions that occurred in any polling locations. Therefore, the Durham County Board of Elections dispatched staff to all 57 polling locations in Durham County to gather evidence of all interruptions in the voting process that had occurred.

Additionally, around 4:30pm, the Durham County Board of Elections staff was made aware that the polling location at North Carolina Central University Law School had a wait time of about two hours. The Durham County Board of Elections staff immediately sent additional personnel and supplies to NCCU, and the wait time at that location decreased substantially within the hour.

At 5:00pm, the Durham County Board of Elections came out of recess again to analyze the evidence of interruptions in the voting process that had been collected from each precinct. This evidence was used to form a basis on which the Durham Board could make a recommendation to the State Board of Elections to extend voting hours at certain Durham polling locations.  The Durham County Board of Elections made a unanimous decision to recommend to the State Board that eight precincts remain open for an additional ninety minutes. The Durham County Board of Elections staff forwarded this request to the State Board of Elections, which met beginning at 6:00 p.m. and approved extended voting periods for the eight precincts requested, but adopted varying amounts of time for those polls to remain open. The additional voting times adopted by the State Board varied from 20 to 60 minutes.

At 7:30pm, the Durham County Board of Elections began the standard process of tabulating the results of the one stop early voting and approved absentee by mail ballots. The tabulating of these ballots occurred in the main board room where all members of the Durham Board, various observers from both political parties and a State Board of Elections representative were present at all times. The process first involved printing the result tapes from the voting tabulators that were used at each early voting site, and the tabulator at the Board of Elections office which was used for approved absentee by mail ballots.  These tapes then were verified and signed by each member of the Durham County Board of Elections.  Next, the ballot count information from those tabulators was downloaded to the PCMCIA cards that are a part of each tabulator. The PCMCIA cards containing the ballot count information then were removed from the tabulators to be inserted into the County Board’s computer system so that their data could be uploaded into the State Board’s computer system and displayed on the State’s website.  The PCMCIA cards from these tabulators were inserted into the secured computer in the main board room. At no time did the PCMCIA cards leave the custody of Durham County Board of Elections staff, nor did they physically leave the main board room where the members of the Durham Board, a state representative, and various other observers were present.

During the process of uploading the data from these PCMCIA cards, data from five of the cards was not able to be uploaded into the State Computer System.  The staff of the State Board of Elections and the vendor of the PCMCIA cards were notified at this point and asked if they had any proposed solutions for this technical problem. Because of the technological issue with the five cards, and given the options provided, the State Board of Elections representative, in consultation with the members of the Durham County Board decided that the information on the result tapes should be manually entered into the state’s system using a bi-partisan team, under supervision of the State Board representative. It was further decided that this laborious manual data entry process would be delayed until the remainder of the tapes and cards containing the election day results from each of the 57 precincts in the County were received by the Durham Board, and those results were uploaded into the State’s computer system.  The rationale for this decision was to avoid the delay in the reporting of election day results that would have been caused if the uploading of those results had had to wait until the manual data entry process was complete.  As the processing of election day results proceeded through the evening, it was discovered that the PCMCIA card from precinct 29 also would not function, and the result tape from that precinct therefore was added to the group of tapes which would be manually entered later. Therefore, there were six tabulator tapes from which data manually was entered later that evening.

At 10:00pm, when all but a small number of election day results had been received and uploaded to the State’s system, the Durham County Board of Elections bi-partisan team began the manual data entry and upload process for precinct 29 and the five early one stop voting sites whose PCMCIA cards had failed.  The process began at this time at the direction of the State Board of Elections staff representative who was present.  The bi-partisan team was made up of one Democrat and one Republican member of the Durham County Board of Elections and the interim Director of Elections for Durham County.  The data entry process took place in the main board room under the supervision of the State Board of Elections staff representative, the Chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections and an Assistant Durham County Attorney.  Various other observers also were present. The data entry process took approximately an hour and a half because there was data reflecting 94,159 votes that had to be manually entered and uploaded into the state’s computer system.  When the data entry process was completed, an interim report showing the data that had been entered was run, and a spot check comparison of the data shown on that report and the data shown the result tapes for each of the tabulators in question was conducted by the State Board of Elections staff representative, a member of the Durham County Board of Elections staff, and the Chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections.

The Durham County Board of Elections acted in accordance with all applicable state and federal law in the course of this process. It has maintained continuous communication with the staff of the North Carolina State Board of Elections throughout this process, and has done its best to make this process transparent so that the citizens of Durham and the state of North Carolina can have confidence that the 2016 election administration process in Durham County was fair, impartial and bi-partisan. The Durham County Board of Elections welcomes any questions and comments as it moves forward with its canvassing process.

The media is invited to visit the office of the Durham County Board of Elections from 8:00am to 9:00am on Tuesday, November 16, at which time Chairman of the Durham County Board of Elections Bill Brian, and Interim Director of Elections for Durham County Kate Cosner will be available to answer questions regarding the 2016 General Election.

 

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