N.C. Board of Elections extends voting in Durham County
Breaking news update
DURHAM COUNTY, N.C. — The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Tuesday extended voting in Durham County in eight precincts by a variety of times, depending on the precinct. The times range from 20 to 60 minutes. The Durham County Board of Elections had requested a voting extension of 90 minutes county-wide after technical issues at several precincts earlier in the day. Durham County is a Democratic stronghold in the battleground Tar Heel State with a large minority population.
DURHAM COUNTY, N.C. — The Durham County Board of Elections requested Tuesday that voting in the county be extended by 90 minutes, and a nonprofit group sued the state board of elections for the extension.
The unanimous recommendation, which was sent to the state Board of Elections at 1:30 p.m. ET, came after a glitch in the electronic voter check-in system required a switch to paper roll books, Durham County Board of Elections spokesperson Briana Khan told CNN.
By state rules, all voting locations in the county have to be affected for an extension of voting hours. The county has brought in 60 additional staff to work on providing more data to the state on how much the voting has been affected, Khan said.
At least five precincts in North Carolina had to switch to paper poll books earlier in the day. The move came “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections
The “glitches” in the check-in software forced the precincts to switch to paper poll books to check-in voters, but no votes cast will be affected, Gannon said.
The error, however, did cause longer-than-expected wait times at the polling locations, according to the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.
“Number one: We demand that they fix this glitch,” Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of North Carolina NAACP, said in a statement obtained by CNN. “There were no glitches in early voting. Why now and why in a heavy black voting area?”
Thirty-seven percent of registered voters in Durham County are black.
According to Khan, the state board of elections is helping the county officials print extra poll books and get them to the affected precincts.
Also Tuesday night, a nonprofit group went to court in Wake County, North Carolina, asking that polls in Durham County be kept open for another 90 minutes Tuesday night.
“As a result of these events, voting in Durham County was interrupted at multiple sites for at least one hour,” said lawyers for the group, Democracy North Carolina, in their court filing.
This action comes as campaign lawyers for both sides are scheduled to attend a hearing at 6 p.m. ET before the State Board of Elections on the same issue.
The county signed a new contract last year to use a new e-voting system designed by VR Systems. A spokeswoman for VR Systems declined comment about the problems in Durham County.
Gov. Pat McCrory, who is running for re-election Tuesday, told CNN that he had spoken to election officials and that they had it under control.
“I want the votes counted as quick as they can in all counties in North Carolina,” McCrory said. “I just talked to the elections board supervisor and said that I want every vote to count, and every vote will count.”
“We have our lawyers going to locations,” Barber said. “They also must encourage people not to leave because the problem is with system not the people.”
Barber told CNN that the group has lawyers throughout the state and that they are not ruling out legal action on any voter suppression issues.
In past elections, the county had used paper roll books to check in voters, but switched to electronic check-in in October 2015, according to Khan.
The issue began around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday and all locations had a paper backup, Khan said. She said that the county board of elections had not heard reports that any wait times were longer than 45 minutes.
“We were having sporadic problems just getting all of our computers up at one time. One would go up and the other would drop off line,” said Glenn Reynolds, a precinct judge, who said problems began as soon as people began voting at his site. He said the system that they use to check voters in and verify their information was not consistently working.
At least one precinct in Durham County ran out of authorization to vote forms that all voters must fill out before they vote, the Durham County Board of Elections confirmed.
Precinct 31 was out of the forms that all voters must sign to before casting a ballot for about an hour and a half Tuesday morning before more forms were delivered.
The N.C. NAACP said the polling location turned away at least 45 people in one hour because of the lack of forms. However, county election officials stressed that while some voters did voluntarily choose to leave because of the wait, no voters were turned away.