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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Investigation Into March Primary in Durham Now in the Hands of the District Attorney

Posted by on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KCIVEY/FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS.
  • Photo by KCIvey/Flickr/Creative Commons.
The saga of the March 15, 2016, primary election continues as the North Carolina State Board of Elections has concluded its investigation and handed over its findings to Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols to determine if any charges should be filed. 

The investigation has been ongoing since April, when the state board was alerted of discrepancies and conducted an audit. The investigation was announced in May and, at the time, the public was clued into the fact there were missing votes in the election that saw two incumbent members of the Board of County Commissioners losing their seats. In late May, the state board decided to allow for a re-casting of some ballots after it was determined that of 1,039 provisionally approved or partially approved ballots at the center of the investigation, there were only physical records for 980 of them. While the re-cast of ballots was too low of a threshold to change any of the elections, three candidates who lost in the election called for a new election to be held. 

According to emails sent between Durham County Board of Elections Director Michael Perry (who is currently on leave) and board chairman Bill Brian on March 28, it was clear that the county was about 300 ballots short and that a tote with a "large number of unopened ballots" was missing. 

One employee was put in charge of the ballots at the time, and that employee had become uncooperative with the board staff. He resigned the next day—March 29—via a handwritten note. While the board was not able to identify the employee in question, personnel records from the county show only one employee resigned in March—Richard Rawling, an elections administrator. 

Tampering with an election is a felony, but it is unclear if any charges will be brought forth. 

According to WRAL, the state board finished its review into the primary this week, but has declined to release its report. 

The INDY has reached out to Echols for a comment on the investigation. We are waiting for a response and will update this post once we hear from him. 

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