WENTWORTH, N.C. (WGHP) – The email from Paul Seamster, the elections director of Rockingham County, arrived early Tuesday and carried with it a tone of exasperation.
“There has been a lot of misinformation circulating around the county about the Rockingham County Board of Elections and its staff, and we would like to stop the spread of this misinformation,” Seamster said. And then she set about to dispel one by one a series of rumors that have emerged since early, in-person voting began last Thursday across North Carolina.
As of Tuesday morning, about 530,217 votes had been cast either in-person or by mail statewide. That’s fewer in total than in 2018, but there has been one less day of voting. More ballots have arrived each day than on its corresponding date.
About 24,000 votes had been submitted in Guilford County, and 20,000 in Forsyth. Through Tuesday morning, 6,154 ballots had been cast across Rockingham County, Seamster reported.
But in Rockingham County, the voting momentum has been affected by the flow of calls, emails and walk-in questions for Seamster and her staff. So, she was trying to answer all those questions in one fell swoop.
Here’s her list:
- “We have not received any fake ballots.
- “We have not lost any ballots.
- “The Board of Elections office doors have not been left unlocked intentionally.
- “The Board of Elections office has not been broken into.
- “And no voter registration applications have been misplaced, lost or thrown away.”
She said the board “has the responsibility for administering fair, accurate, honest, secure and impartial elections in Rockingham County, and we plan on doing that.”
Then she asked the public to call if they had any concerns, just in case her responses weren’t spread as quickly or as widely as were the unfounded rumors.
“I don’t know exactly how it all got started, but we’ve had telephone calls saying, ‘We understand that your office is receiving fake ballots,’” she told WGHP in a follow-up interview.
She said people would say, “’We understand there are ballots that are missing.’ … ‘Why do I have to vote provisionally when it doesn’t count?’ And we’re trying to stop all this misinformation.”
She talked in detail about the processes she goes through each day to verify ballots and information and protect against fraud, a topic of much discussion since the spread of unfounded claims of fraud by former President Donald Trump about the 2020 presidential election.
Voter fraud happens very sporadically, and elections officials from the North Carolina Board down to each county are taking painstaking precautions to ensure that there is confidence by voters that the electoral process is being carried out accurately and fairly.
Seamster is new to this. She has been in her position for about 18 months, so she too is learning as the season goes on.
“I’m brand new,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. It’s rewarding, but it’s challenging. Politics is something that is not like anything else.
“We do need the politicians for policies and procedures, but the cutthroat and backstabbing are not needed. Everybody is important, and everybody’s vote should count, and no one should stop these individuals from being able to have that right.”
Limited to Rockingham County
Seamster said she had not elevated the complaints to the state BOE. “However, the State Board of Elections has talked to us on several occasions about misinformation and disinformation,” she said.
Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the NC Board of Elections said that determining whether there had been more complaints like this in 2022 was “hard to say because we don’t necessarily track complaints related to conspiracy theories. Misinformation and disinformation about elections are rampant.”
Charlie Collicutt, the veteran elections chief in Guilford County, said that he was unaware of what was happening at his neighbor’s office, but he had not experienced complaints like that.
Seamster, for her part, said she intends to push forward.
“I believe that it’s our God-given right to vote,” she said. “It’s our opinion, and no one should be afraid to come out and vote.”
If you live in Rockingham County and hear any misinformation or have concerns, you can call Seamster at (336) 342-8107.
“We will be glad to clear up the misinformation,” she said.