RALEIGH, N.C. – A Durham County grand jury on Monday indicted a former Durham County elections worker on charges related to the mishandling of provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election.
The grand jury returned indictments against Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, on counts of obstruction of justice, a felony, and failure to discharge a duty of his office, a misdemeanor.
Investigators from the then-N.C. State Board of Elections (now called the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement) found that irregularities resulting from Rawling’s actions were not sufficient in number to affect any contest outcomes. It also found no evidence that Rawling altered ballot counts to support a particular political party or candidate.
Rather, the investigation determined that 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. That was done, the investigation found, to avoid having to report to the Durham County Board of Elections a discrepancy in 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,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. “We will continue to hold accountable elections workers and voters who violate election laws.”
Voters cast provisional ballots when there is a question about whether they are eligible to vote in a particular election or contest.
Unlike regular ballots, provisional ballots 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. Provisional ballots deemed acceptable are then run through tabulators on county canvass day.
Rawling worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15 primary, but resigned later that month. When Durham County elections officials notified State Board investigators about the issue in early April 2016, the State Board office opened an investigation. In October 2016, investigators provided a full report to the Durham County district attorney for possible prosecution.
Derek Bowens, the former elections director in New Hanover County, took over as Durham County’s elections director in June 2017. This incident occurred under a former director, who is no longer with the agency.