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Elections chief: New balloting offers restitution
December 02,2004

BEAUFORT - Carteret County Board of Elections Chairman Ed Pond says there's no perfect way to resolve the loss of 4,438 votes that didn't get counted in November's general election.

But, he said, there's some restitution in the state Board of Election's decision to hold a special election in Carteret County on Jan. 11.

The special election will allow those whose votes were lost - as well as eligible voters who did not cast ballots on Nov. 2 - to vote in the tight state commissioner of agriculture race between Democrat Britt Cobb and Republican Steve Troxler.

"I was encouraged that the state Board of Elections struggled with a difficult issue in an effort to get a common-sense solution ?," Pond said. "It may bring small solace to the 4,438 voters of Carteret County whose votes were lost that they will be able to vote in the commissioner of agriculture race. I wish there were some way their full votes could have been counted."

The votes cast during the special election will then be added to the votes already tabulated from the county's general election. Troxler holds a narrow lead over Cobb, who took the commissioner post after the resignation of Meg Scott Phipps earlier this year.

The county is able to identify the voters whose votes were not counted but the county Board of Elections has not yet decided how they will be notified.

There were 4,438 ballots cast during the early voting period prior to Nov. 2 that were not tabulated because of a problem with the electronic voting equipment. More than 7,000 people cast ballots on the machine, but it could only store slightly more than 3,000 votes.

California-based UniLect Corp., the manufacturer of the county's voting equipment, has acknowledged that the information it gave on the storage capacity was for machines programmed at a different setting than Carteret's machines. County elections officials said they believed the computer used during early voting could hold up to 10,500 ballots when the limit was actually 3,005.

While there will be an opportunity for some to vote again, it will be at Carteret County's expense.

UniLect President Jack Gerbel has admitted the errors, Pond said, but the company can't afford to pick up the estimated $20,000 it will take to run the special election in Carteret County's 34 precincts.

"I'm disappointed with that, but the Carteret County board will follow the state board's advice and direction," Pond said.

Meanwhile, a local organization has announced its plans to study the issues surrounding Carteret County's November general election.

The board of directors of the Carteret County League of Women Voters has formed an Election Study Group to seek answers to the public's questions about the process of the election. The group will also look at ways to prevent voter disenfranchisement during future elections, a news release states.

The League of Women Voters conducts voter education and citizenship programs to assist and encourage members of the community to participate in the election process.

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