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Elections officials complete canvass of votes (NC)
Sun Journal. November 18, 2008. by Sue Book

The 2008 election returns of 66.26 percent of those registered in Craven County were canvassed by the Craven County Board of Elections on Tuesday.

The canvass found that 45,181 people cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election. That figure is 3,883 votes more than the unofficial total posted on election night. The new numbers are now on the Craven County Board of Elections Web site.

The added votes change no election winners but edge up Governor-elect Bev Perdue's winning vote to 56.82 percent and puts Rep. Alice Underhill 121 votes shy of Republican challenger Norman Sanderson in the 20 Craven precincts of her district, assuring re-election with her win in Pamlico County.

Of the votes added on Tuesday, 337 were found in a personal electronic ballot  counter used to record first day of one-stop votes at No. & Township fire and Rescue in Grantham.

"It was sitting on the table the whole time marked ‘spare,' " said Tonya Pitts, Craven County elections director.

Pitts said she and a staff member thought of the data downloaded that day at almost the same time on Tuesday after an audit and hand recount by state and county elections officials of thousands of ballots and authorizations to vote forms over the last week.

"I do not believe any state board staff would have ever reconciled that," Pitts said. The electronic ballot counter, a 3-by-4-inch electronic media recorder that functions like a computer flash card or drive, had all of the Oct. 16 votes cast at that early voting site.

So much time was spent looking for a computer problem and all the time it was human error, said Bill Miner, Craven County elections board member.

Some computer software coding questions did arise in the search for the missing ballots of recorded voters. They were answered on Monday when it was determined that a step had been omitted to make voting machine and state elections software compatible, a step that  would have shown the incompatibility  with proper local testing.

 State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett was in Craven County on Monday and authorized another day of delay in the official canvass, which was supposed to be complete on Nov. 14.

While the vote-count difference was not enough to change the outcome of any race on the ballot, Bartlett said, election officials wanted a correct count and a reason for discrepancies to insure confidence in the election process.

Ray Wood, Craven elections board secretary, said that on Tuesday "I went through and unlocked every compartment of 39 voting machines - 117 locks. I went to the right side, the left side, and the emergency bins."

Wood found three ballots from the H.J. MacDonald Precinct in the fourth machine he opened and no others. They were counted at canvass, as were the Grantham one-stop votes and eight damaged paper ballots.

Before the canvass, the total of ballots cast was listed at 44,684. After the canvass, the figure was higher by 497 votes, but 149 of those remained unexplained. The numbers on the canvass report are not the same numbers as those on the Web site.


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