The Case of Missing Durham County Ballots Referred to the SBI | Durham County | Indy Week

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The Case of Missing Durham County Ballots Referred to the SBI

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Last week, the months-long investigation into whether there was any foul play during the March 15 primary elections in Durham County was handed over to state law enforcement officials. 

The March primary was called into question after the county board of elections discovered, following an internal investigation, that provisional ballots had gone missing or been counted more than once, leading the State Board of Elections to launch its own inquiry. 

Earlier this month, the state board gave its findings to Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols, who passed them along to the State Bureau of Investigations. While Echols declined to comment on whether or not criminal charges would come from the SBI's investigation, election tampering is a felony in North Carolina. 

In April, the state board was alerted to discrepancies in the provisional ballot count of an election in which two incumbent county commissioners lost. It conducted an audit. In May, an investigation was announced and the public was informed that there were missing votes. Three candidates contested the results and called for a new election.

In late May, the state board rejected that request but allowed for a recasting of some ballots after it 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. The number of recast votes was too low to change the results of any of the races. 

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

One employee was in charge of the ballots at the time, according to the emails, and that employee became uncooperative with the board staff. He resigned on March 29 via a handwritten note. While the board declined to identify the employee in question, personnel records show only one employee resigned in March—Richard Rawling, an elections administrator. 

Rawling has not responded to requests for comment. 

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