COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The midterm elections have come and gone, but polling problems that caused issues for voters in one area remain, and now election officials are trying to figure out what went wrong.
Board of Elections Director Carla Strickland said human error likely caused the initial ballot issue. She said there’s a good chance a poll worker simply forgot to grab the ballots.
“The first thing I would say to (voters) is that I’m sincerely sorry. Normally, this does not happen," Strickland said. “This is the first time that this has ever happened in my tenure here at this Board of Elections and as far as it’s concerned, explaining the situation to (voters) to the best of my ability, that is all we can do.”
The human error led state election officials to keep the precinct open almost two extra hours, until 9:20 p.m., which pushed back when county results were released.
The board waited until all polls closed to announce winners.
Strickland said about 10 to 20 voters were affected by the ballots arriving late. She said all of them were contacted before the precinct closed Tuesday night.
According to state officials, poll workers didn’t follow protocol taking down all the names of voters affected, but Strickland said they went back into the system to find those voters. When people come to vote, they check in, so she said she was able to download the data log from South Williams and identify most of the people affected.
Strickland said they’ll count the provisional ballots this week, and canvas to make sure the results are accurate.
“We have to canvas everything that we have received to ensure that it is accurate and correct," she said. “Once that is done, then we will look at, why did this happen and what can we do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
“Everybody who works here, the elections process is very important to them, as it is to me," Strickland added. “Making sure that they are fair, that they are transparent and ensuring that the voters can trust everything that we do and basically in any given situation, you always have to take in human error. ... That‘s why we have all of these cross checks to ensure that everything is accurate.”
Strickland said the board won’t have any definite answers for why the ballots weren’t at the polling place until after the investigation, which will start in the next two weeks.