ELIZABETHTOWN — In yet another chink in the rusty chain of this year’s election, an additional protest was filed in Bladen County this week.
On Tuesday, Democratic Bladen County District 3 commissioner candidate Ken Register Jr. filed a protest with the Bladen County Board of Elections over the race he lost to Republican newcomer Ashley Trivette. According to the protest, Register “was witness to several software glitches as well as a memory stick being switched during early voting and Election Day.”
“The state board is totally aware of what was happening,” said Bladen County Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw. “They were the ones guiding us through what to do. Not one voter was rejected nor did anyone not get to vote because of it. If that thumb drive had been a factor in determining the outcome, the state board would have been all over it.”
Voting machines, like all equipment — the machines that tally ballots, voting booths, and binders — have to be certified by the state. In order to pass inspection, the machines must have backup capabilities. In the case of the machine in question, if the machine experiences a malfunction, an emergency bin is opened and ballots are fed in there. When the machine is back in operation, the emergency drawer is unlocked again, and the ballots in the drawer are fed through as they would have been if no malfunction had happened.
“The machine never misses a beat,” said Shaw. “It’s not like I went to Walmart and bought this voting machine — it’s been certified by the state.”
According to Shaw, the two thumb drives, under the supervision of chief precinct judges, were merged and the numbers matched perfectly.
“I’m confident in knowing that we handled the situation the right way,” said Shaw. “The hiccups we had in this election during early voting and on Election Day had nothing to do with the outcome of the election. Nothing. And that’s the bottom line.”
Register further alleges that “undetermined amounts of absentee ballots were forged and submitted by certain individuals and others from the same or similar organizations” and that individuals “have in fact falsified and submitted absentee ballots to the Bladen County Board of Elections.”
Register lists Democrats Michael Cogdell, Horace Munn, Arthur Bullock, Deborah Moore, and Lula Wooten as witnesses to the allegations.
One of the affidavits was from Heather Register, who testified that someone showed up to urge her to vote and promised absentee ballots, which never arrived. When she showed up to vote, according to her statement, she was told that she had already submitted a ballot.
A second affidavit from Linda Johnson-Baldwin asserts that, when a representative showed up at her house urging her to vote, she filled out the forms for herself and two sons. The worker told her that he needed to take the forms with him in order to get paid but that he would return them. She alleges she waited almost 24 hours from when he said he would return them, and he never did. She asked for her absentee ballots to be discarded.
According to Shaw, the absentee ballots were never turned in to the Board of Elections.
Based on the above information, Register requested a hand-to-eye count of the ballots.
The protest has been sent to the state board, but it is not known when a determination will be made about accepting the protest.
An earlier protest by McCrae Dowless alleging voter fraud on the part of the Bladen Improvement PAC has also been sent to the state board, and earlier this week, the state accepted the protest. Several of the people mentioned in Register’s protest as witnesses were the focus of the complaint filed by Dowless. It is not known when an outcome can be expected.
Shaw said that Bladen County is the only county in the state to have a protest accepted by the state thus far.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.