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Double vote under state investigation

State investigator Marshall Tutor will look into why a Lincolnton man voted twice before Election Day, with voting fraud charges possible.

SARAH LOWERY, STAFF WRITER

 

A citizen’s extra vote in Lincolnton City elections has been thrown out, but the matter has been handed over to the state for investigation.

The Lincoln County Board of Elections met Tuesday morning to decide what action should be taken following the discovery of a two-time voter on Friday.

Bill C. Beam, director of the Board of Elections, said Alonzo Odom had voted twice on Friday, once by absentee ballot and a second time by early one-stop voting Friday afternoon.

Ordinarily, a computer system immediately detects an attempted overvote and prevents it. But when Odom came to place his vote at the Citizens Center, around 2:18 p.m., Beam said access to the statewide computerized system had gone down and was not restored until just after 3 p.m.

Mark Burris, who oversees information technology for the North Carolina Board of Elections, told the Times-News on Tuesday that the state provides counties with electronic system software that is connected to the state network. He confirmed that the statewide network went down on Friday, which led to the county’s server needing to be rebooted.

Once the system was restored, and election staff attempted to enter one-stop votes cast while it was down, the system red-flagged Odom for having already voted, according to Beam.

Following the incident, Beam said his office proceeded to notify an investigator with the state elections board, Marshall Tutor.

If Tutor finds evidence of criminal intent, a report could be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for potential prosecution.

The only elections investigator for the state, Tutor spoke with the Times-News on Tuesday afternoon and said he has already sent a certified letter to Odom, adding that this happens quite often.

Tutor said he could also potentially look at allegations of collusion with other individuals as long as those are “fact-based” and “we don’t go out chasing dogs.”

Tutor added that he “will find the facts as best we can” and then forward a report to the executive director of the N.C. Board of Elections. A determination about whether to involve the district attorney would be made at that time.

Beam said during Tuesday’s meeting that Tutor’s recommendation regarding Odom’s two votes was to disapprove his absentee ballot and to count his one-stop vote.

After going through and signing 34 additional absentee ballots received by 5 p.m. Monday, board Chairman Bob Richardson and member Charles Cook voted to approve those ballots and disapprove Odom’s mailed-in ballot. Susanne Sellers, secretary of the board, was not present.

They then went through 72 one-stop votes, all of which were approved. At the end of the meeting, Martin Oakes, treasurer of the Lincoln County Republican Party, requested to address some other business, but Beam said he did not give enough advance notification prior to the meeting and that he would present it to the board to be put on the next meeting’s agenda.

Oakes had sent a letter to Beam regarding the voting situation, stating that “as per statute, all instances of apparent voter fraud shall be referred to the local district attorney, and I call on you and the board to do so.”
“It’s my belief that the voter in question did not knowingly vote twice but that someone else manipulated the absentee ballot for this voter, and my primary suspect is the witness on the ballot envelope,” Oakes wrote.
“I believe the investigation should focus on the absentee ballot and should be extended to all ballots where the same person was involved in the process as in this instance and to all absentee ballot requests that appear to be in the same handwriting as this one,” he added.
Deputy Director of the N.C. Board of Elections Johnnie McLean told the Times-News Tuesday that she approved of the action taken by the local board in terms of accepting the most recently cast ballot and tossing out the other. She added that some further investigation would be necessary, however.
In particular, McLean said it needs to be determined whether there was an intent to commit fraud and generate extra votes, and the circumstances involving others in this person’s voting do need to be reported and looked at as part of the investigation.
Early voting for city elections began Thursday, with Election Day on Nov. 8.
Managing Editor Frank Taylor contributed to this story.
Image courtesy of Seth Mabry / Lincoln Times-News

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