A Durham County grand jury handed down an indictment of a former Durham County elections official on charges related to mishandling provisional ballots during the March 2016 primary.
The grand jury returned indictments against Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, on felony obstruction of justice charges and failure to discharge a duty of his office, a misdemeanor.
Investigators from the State Board of Elections, now the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, found irregularities resulting from Rawling’s actions were not sufficient in number to affect any contest outcomes.
The board also said that during its investigation it found no evidence that Rawling’s motivations were in support of a particular political party or candidate, but rather to cover inconsistencies in the number of provisional ballots canvassed on Election Day.
Rawling worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15th primary, but resigned later that same month.
Durham County elections officials notified the state board investigators about the issue early the next month after which an investigation was opened.
In October 2016, investigators provided a full report to the Durham County district attorney for possible prosecution.
According to the state board Rawling “ran or ordered subordinates 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.”
According to investigators this was done to avoid having to report to the Durham County board that a discrepancy existed between the number of provisional ballots in possession of the Board of Elections and the number counted on canvass day.
“The State Board’s top priority is ensuring the integrity of elections so voters have confidence in the process,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the state, said. “We will continue to hold accountable elections workers and voters who violate election laws.”
Provisional ballots are cast on Election Day when there is a question of whether a voter is eligible to vote in a particular election or contest.
They differ from regular ballots, in that they are not run through tabulators at the polling place but are collected and delivered to the county board of elections to determine whether they should be counted.
Those that are deemed eligible are then run through tabulators on county canvass day.