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Former Durham County elections worker indicted by grand jury

Voters get a sticker to encourage others to vote.
Voters get a sticker to encourage others to vote. MCT

A Durham County grand jury has indicted Richard Robert Rawling of Cary, a former Durham County elections worker, on charges related to the mishandling of provisional-ballot results during the March 2016 primary election.

The indictment was handed down Monday on counts of obstruction of justice, which is a felony, and failure to discharge a duty of his office, which is a misdemeanor, the N.C. State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement said in a release.

Rawling, 59, worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15 primary, before resigning later that month. The N.C. State Board of Elections opened an investigation into the election in April 2016.

Efforts to reach Rawling were unsuccessful.

During that primary, a discrepancy was discovered within a week after a local canvass of votes, which appeared to be related to Durham County Board of Election’s staff counting about 200 provisional ballots twice to get the ballot count to match.

Provisional ballots are used when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility. They are often used when voters go to the wrong precinct or when their name can’t be found on the voting rolls.

Investigators from the N.C. State Board of Elections determined that Rawling ran or ordered others to run provisional ballots through tabulators more than once and made manual changes to the ballot count so the results of the provisional canvass would match the number of approved provisional ballots.

The grand jury, which said the alteration represented an obstruction of justice, added that Rawling’s altering of ballots was “committed in secret with deceit or the intent to defraud,” according to language in the indictment.

The N.C. State Board of Elections, which is now called the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, found that the irregularities resulting from Rawling’s efforts were not enough to affect any election outcomes.

It also found no evidence that Rawling altered any ballot counts to support a particular party or candidate. North Carolina voter records show that Rawling is registered unaffiliated.

Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said the manipulation was determined not to support a particular party or candidate as it “occurred days after preliminary results were known, and the number of provisional ballots involved was not sufficient to change any outcomes.”

“The State Board’s top priority is ensuring the integrity of elections so voters have confidence in the process,” said Kim Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, in a statement. “We will continue to hold accountable elections workers and voters who violate election laws.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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