Durham bypassed troubled state site for results

Turnout in Tuesday’s voting termed ‘pretty good’
May. 06, 2014 @ 11:43 PM

While turnout in Durham County’s primary election Tuesday might’ve been decent, reporting of results could’ve gone much better.

Officials at the county Board of Elections said that although the process of counting ballots went smoothly Tuesday, getting the numbers out proved challenging due to problems with the state Board of Elections website.

Michael Perry, director of the Durham County Board of Elections, and his crew had to resurrect the local board’s in-house site to provide information online to the public.

“There’s a new, fancy system we were going to use with the state and it’s not working,” Perry said as his office shifted systems well after the polls had closed. “We’re going back to doing it the old way.”

North Carolina elections officials said a programing error resulted in incorrect data for precincts reporting being displayed on the state board's website as results are being tabulated, the Associated Press reported.

Turnout in Durham County Tuesday exceeded that of the 2010 midterm primary and school board election, with about 15 percent of the county’s 201,193 registered voters casting ballots this year.

“I think it’s pretty good,” said Perry. He said the total is an unofficial count, and does not yet include absentee and provisional ballots. The total, including those ballots, is expected to be certified on Monday, he said.

Perry said it was likely that local contests for school board, sheriff, district attorney and judicial seats drew a larger share of voters. The election also included Republican and Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate seat now held by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., as well as primaries for U.S. House seats.

Bill Brian, chairman of the Durham Board of Elections, said Durham didn’t have any significant problems at the polls and no issues with returns coming in.

Eighteen percent, or 5,620 of ballots cast here Tuesday, were Republican, while 80 percent, or 24,964, were Democratic.

In the 2010 midterm, 13 percent of Durham County’s then-164,296 registered voters turned out. There were 21,471 ballots cast, with 80 percent cast by Democrats and 18 percent cast by Republicans.

By early afternoon at the polling place off North Duke Street at Holt Elementary Language Academy, the precinct’s Chief Judge Michael Gray said he already had seen more people than election officials guessed they’d see all day.

He said polling officials at the precinct had guessed they’d see 300 to 350 for the whole day, but they’d already hit about 300 by the early afternoon.

“It’s been one of the busier precincts over the years,” he said.

James Chambliss was among the voters who turned out on Tuesday. He said he came to set an example for his children, and also because he said he was concerned about changes in the state made by the N.C. General Assembly.

“In 2010, (we) failed to come, we as blacks,” he said.

At another polling location at the Forest Hills Clubhouse, voters said they were drawn by local school board races and the N.C. Senate primaries.

“I want to defeat all the damage done by the Koch brothers’ agenda to North Carolina,” said Joel Glasson, who said he’s a Democratic Party supporter. Glasson said he was interested in that race, in which Hagan was facing two challengers. On the Republican side, N.C. House speaker Thom Tillis was one of eight candidates vying Tuesday for the GOP spot on the ballot in November.

“We got caught with our pants down, and outsiders came in and took our state,” Glasson said. “It’s important for us to counter that with our votes at this election and every re-election after that,” he added.

Also at that same polling location, Arthur Herring said North Carolina has Republican representation in the U.S. Senate in Richard Burr, and “we don’t need to double down in that.” He doesn’t believe in political labels and is an independent. He said he supports Hagan as a moderate to liberal candidate.

“In a representative democracy like this...everybody should step forward and let their feelings be known,” he said.

Jodi Koviach was drawn to the polls by the Durham Public Schools Board of Education District 2 race, which had five candidates. Koviach said she voted for Sendolo Diaminah for that seat. She said she felt he had a good gauge of what’s happening on the community level and is an advocate for diversity.

She has one child in kindergarten and another child in preschool.

“We just want people on the school board who are advocates for school quality for public schools in particular and in light of all the cuts in education at the state level, (we) think local advocacy is more important than ever,” she said.

Ray Gronberg contributed to this report.