BLADENBORO, NC (WECT) - A ballot thought to be missing in the ongoing investigation into absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County was actually counted, and it was a clerical error that led the voter and others to believe otherwise.
A WBTV report Thursday said Lee Ann Herring turned in her absentee by mail ballot in person at the Bladen County Board of Elections, but online records had no record of her voting in the 2018 general election.
An inspection of the more than 750 absentee ballot envelopes published by the North Carolina State Board of Elections as part of the investigation shows Herring’s ballots for both the general and the primary election are in the possession of the NCSBE. Herring’s general election absentee ballot certificate was witnessed by two individuals on Oct. 23.
Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the state agency, said it was a clerical error that led to the belief Herring’s vote was not counted.
“We have located the ballot, and it had been counted by the county board,” Gannon said. “The voter’s voter history data will be updated to reflect that.”
Former special counsel for the North Carolina General Assembly Gerry Cohen said clerical mistakes are often the cause for concerns of fraud.
“Often alleged fraud is actually administrative error,” Cohen said.
In a phone call Friday, he suggested the hypothesis that the vote was indeed counted, but that updating the record was simply overlooked.
WBTV followed up with an additional report Friday, saying they asked the NCSBE for proof the vote was counted, but did not receive any.
Cohen said the board wouldn’t be able to provide “hard evidence" Herring’s ballot was counted any more than it could provide it for any other ballot. If the ballot was opened and in a stack along with other ballots that had been tabulated, Cohen said that’s how the board would likely determine the vote had been counted.
The only way to prove the ballot was not counted would be to open the tabulator and match the ballot number with a recorded vote. To do that, Cohen said the state would likely need a court order, as that information is confidential to the voter.
The NCSBE told WBTV it would be able to provide evidence the vote was counted during an evidentiary hearing on the election fraud investigation.