Computer loses more than 4,000 early votes in Carteret
Charlotte Observer, Associated Press. November 4, 2004
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - More than 4,500 votes may be lost in Carteret County because officials believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Scattered other problems may change results in local races around the state.
Officials are investigating whether the lost votes in Carteret County can be retrieved somehow, said state Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett.
Local officials said UniLect Corp., the maker of the county's electronic voting system, said each storage unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes.
Expecting the greater capacity, the county only used one unit during the early voting period. "If we had known, we would have had the units to handle the votes," said Sue Verdon, secretary of the county election board.
Officials said 3,005 early votes were stored, but 4,530 were lost.
UniLect, based in Dublin, Calif., did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment. County election officials were in a meeting and did not return a message seeking comment.
The loss of the votes didn't appear to change the outcome of the county races, but that wasn't the issue for Alecia Williams of Beaufort, who voted on one of the final days of the early voting period.
"The point is not whether the votes would have changed things, it's that they didn't get counted at all," Williams said.
Two statewide races remained undecided Thursday. The candidates for superintendent of public instruction are divided by about 6,700 votes out of 3.2 million cast. Candidates for agriculture commissioner are separated by just hundreds of votes, according to unofficial figures. The state deadline for official totals is Tuesday.
Still, it would be hard to say what affect those races might be felt from changes in individual counties. At least 72,000 provisional ballots from four counties are still to be counted, Bartlett said.
In other local voting problems:
_ A discrepancy was reported in the number of early votes cast in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte. Before the election, the county election office said 102,109 people voted early or returned valid absentee ballots. Unofficial results from election night showed 106,064 of those votes.
Elections director Michael Dickerson said he was unsure if there was a problem but election officials had not lost any votes. He noted the results were not official yet.
A recount could change results in county commission races.
_ In Craven County, all vote totals in nine of the county's 26 precincts were electronically doubled. The results of most races isn't expected to be affected.
"It was a glitch," said Tiffiney Miller, director of the Craven County Board of Elections. "The machines went and accumulated those (electronic ballots) again when we added in the absentee votes, but it did it for each candidate so it is a marginal error and shouldn't affect the outcome of any race."
_ In Onslow County, a software error changed the order of finish in the race for seats on the county commission. The error didn't change who won the seats, just the order in which they finished.
A floppy disk that compiles voting data from the counting machines was programmed incorrectly, said Kim Strach, a deputy director with the state Board of Elections.