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Mecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws   (NC)

Shawn Flynn  News 14 Carolina    09 May 2008

MECKLENBURG & WAKE COUNTIES Vote tallies are changing in the state’s two largest counties, after certain ballots were counted twice in Mecklenburg and Wake counties.

The mistake didn’t change the outcome of any elections, but it is a cause for concern to election directors. For example, when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared victory Tuesday night in North Carolina’s primary, he was given approximately 15,000 votes more than he should have been. That’s 1 percent of all ballots cast.

In Wake County, early and absentee ballots were counted as part of the individual voters precincts and again as a whole. “So in essence, those voters were recorded double,” said Cherie Poucher of the Wake Co. Board of Elections. It was around 37,000 votes.

In Mecklenburg County, only absentee ballots – 2,400 in all – were doubled. “It doesn’t change any of the results,” said Michael Dickerson of the Mecklenburg Co. Board of Elections. “All the winners are still the winners.”

Alan Teitleman noticed the problems in Mecklenburg Co. when the absentee ballot count for every candidate ended with an even number. That’s 83 candidates, all ending even. He brought the statistical anomaly to Dickerson’s attention.
“At the end of the day, it’s just important that everybody’s vote counted and everybody’s vote counted once,” said Teitleman.

“The good thing to realize is that’s why we say these are unofficial results,” said Dickerson.

Election officials across the state spend a week verifying election results. The problem regarding this year’s double counting was narrowed down to an optical scanner machine, which most counties do not use.

"I don't know if it's in a piece of software that we were doing something wrong,” said Dickerson. “We'll take full responsibility for it if it's our fault."

As for next time, “We’ll be working with [state officials] and whoever else we have to, to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Poucher.

News 14 Carolina contacted other counties across the state, including some that also use that type of scanner, but so far only Wake and Mecklenburg saw the reporting irregularity.

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