Missing ballot found after WBTV investigation; still no proof vote was counted

The front door of the Bladen County Board of Elections office.
The front door of the Bladen County Board of Elections office.
Updated: Jan. 18, 2019 at 4:36 PM EST
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections said it had found the missing ballot submitted by a Bladen County voter in the November 2018 general election.

WBTV first reported on Thursday about the absentee ballot submitted by Lee Ann Herring.

Herring signed the county election board’s absentee ballot drop-off log on Election Day but none of three databases that track returned absentee ballots maintained by the county and state boards of elections showed her ballot had been officially received.

On Friday afternoon, Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the NCSBE, said investigators with the board found the ballot in a stack of ballots at their office.

Gannon said the discovery led board staff to believe her vote was tabulated but, when pressed by a WBTV reporter, could not provide any evidence that would confirm his assertion.

Related: Records show Bladen voter’s absentee ballot was turned in but not counted

According to Gannon, county elections staff likely did not scan the ballot into a system that would have indicated she voted.

Gannon said board staff would be prepared to show evidence that Herring’s vote was counted at an evidentiary hearing. He did not provide an explanation as to what that evidence would be.

“State Board investigators located the ballot in question in the stack of ballots that had been tabulated by the county board,” Gannon said in an emailed statement.

Gannon said the state’s voter look-up database would be updated to reflect Herring voted in the 2018 general election, even though no affirmative evidence had been presented to support such a fact.

WBTV first contacted Gannon regarding Herring’s ballot on Monday. Gannon reviewed data with a WBTV reporter that showed her ballot was not marked as having been received by the state board.

Other absentee ballots are marked as having been received even if they are turned into the elections board but not counted; for instance, if they are missing a signature.

A WBTV reporter followed-up with Gannon on Thursday afternoon to notify him the story about Herring’s ballot would air that evening.

Despite multiple inquiries from WBTV days before the story ran, Gannon said staff did not search the stack of ballots where Herring’s ballot was located until Friday.

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