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Two errors led to incorrect vote totals
November 09,2004
Sue Book
New Bern Sun Journal Staff

At least two problems with Electronic Systems and Software electronic voting machines caused election errors in Craven County, officials said Monday.

One was a computer glitch that caused the first unofficial tally election night to be incorrect and, when recounted, changed the outcome of the race for the District 5 seat on the Craven County Board of Commissioners.

Another surfaced during recounts, showing that a master terminal at the Vanceboro one-stop voting site did not require a password and resulted in an incorrect total in the presidential returns there, said Tiffiney Miller, director of the Craven County Board of Elections.

"I've called the machine manufacturer and advised there was not a password," said Miller. Company representatives were already aware of the election night glitch that resulted in 11,283 more votes for president than the 40,534 people first thought to have voted in the county.

"These will be fixed," said Miller, who also experienced problems in the 2000 election when problems with the machine modems kept results from coming into the elections office until 1:15 a.m. that election night.

Miller and the elections staff have been working extra hours to verify the vote totals ever since the initial problem that resulted in some votes being counted twice was first discovered by the Sun Journal on Wednesday, the day after the election.

Monday, they were busy going through stacks of poll books from the county's 26 precincts comparing signatures entered on Election Day to the totals on computer tapes, which will be made available at today's official vote canvass.

Election officials said the problem did not change the results of any race other than for county commissioner.

"I'm having a hard time understanding how the numbers keep changing," said Chuck Tyson, Republican state senate candidate.

He stressed that he does not think that either a recount here or the missing 4,530 votes in Carteret County would give him a victory against Democrat Scott Thomas, but he said the problems are enough to question how the country counts its votes.

Tony Michalek, the Republican challenger for the District 5 commissioner seat, isn't so sure the numbers are correct. He filed an official protest of the results of the election, which show him 126 votes behind Democratic incumbent Leon Staton.

Initial results pointed to a Staton victory, but after some votes were counted twice, Michalek had an apparent 35-vote victory. However, when election officials corrected the problem, Staton was back out in front with 261 district and 986 total provisional ballots left to be counted.

In his protest, Michalek also pointed to what he called "irregularities" at polling places, one in which he said a Republican observer's procedural inquiries were rebuffed and another in which he said Staton himself was an elections observer.

"It is noted that although there is no section of law that says a candidate in an election can not be an observer, it does not say he can either," he said, citing the possibility of a candidate campaigning more than observing in such circumstances.

Michalek also protested the number of people in the voting booth at one time, comments to people that could be construed as veiled threats and allowing people to loiter, resulting in a "feeling of intimidation," he said.

Michalek's concerns will not be addressed at the canvass today, except for the setting of a hearing date.

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