It's been a difficult day, finding enough people interested to attend a board of elections board meeting proved futile. I got one person to attend with me and that person traveled from Raleigh in order to support me and see what happens in my county.
First of all, as I initially struggled to find the office way behind large brick buildings containing the Board of Education and Commissioners offices, I discovered a small greenish trailer in the back. This is the board of Elections where the US Constitution opens the doors of liberty for the citizenship to make choices in the protection of our country, our liberty, and our ability to continue to pursue happiness for our families and those around us. A small greenish trailer contains the machines, ballots, the instruments of our voting system and stored away along with the director's office and where the board members meet. Seems somehow upside-down, don't you think?
When I called the office to make sure the board meetings are open to the public, the phone rang and rang and finally a small voice answered and told me that "Yes, they were open, but that they were small." Hm, well, I'll go and see how small she means. The room couldn't hold more than maybe 15 people. Twelve were in attendance, which included Jason and myself.
In the agenda, there was room for public comment, just like the Board of Education and Commissioners meetings, the format quite similar. This month the board of 5 and the director were deciding on the early voting dates and locations. That was the easy part of the meeting. At the public comment time, I stepped in.
My concerns were with early voting and mail-in ballots. I asked whether early voting could be ended or at the very least shortened to only a few days. The chairwoman, Ms. Etsil Mason, said that it was set and had to be voted on, the director, Mr. Davis, corrected her in saying it was a legislature issue at the state level. I then directed all my questions to the director. I expressed my concerns about the time, the many hands and security of each ballot during the 2 weeks and weekends that the machines and ballots were sitting around. Mr. Davis said that they are all locked up securely and that even janitors are not allowed in the buildings during early voting. There are only 5 locations for the two weeks and one Sunday, Mother's Day, so there shouldn't be any security issues. I wasn't sure of that.
Jason asked about the spoiled ballots, ballots that are unreadable, unable to be counted, and needed clarification. The chairwoman, Ms. Mason said that they call each person to let them know their situation and have them come in to fill out a new ballot. My question was how many phone calls does the board make during this time? There was no answer. I seriously doubt that every single voter that turned in a spoiled ballot was contacted and given a chance to clear up their ballot and what was the time frame for them to get this cleared up and still have their vote count? One day?? one week?? This was not made clear. Besides, what IS a spoiled ballot?? Who makes that decision?
One of the board members told the story of how they were all in counting the ballots when one of them found a ballot from a person that lives in Beauford county. He wanted to make me feel better about how many hands handle each ballot and whether is was secure and fair. Out of 15,000 ballots, he said, they found one from outside the county that they were able to throw out. I'm still not convinced.
After the board meeting, we continued to talk to Mr. Davis. He showed us where the machines were stored in a small room from the conference room. A speed counter was housed in the conference room.
The bottom line to this whole experience is this: With a democrat governor in office, the board of elections must have 3 democrats and 2 republicans on the board. Since the board members here in Pitt County have been on the board for many terms, I would venture to say that we need to have more republicans in attendance when they count, do election work, and be at the board meetings asking questions. The chairwoman thanked me profusely for being in attendance and asking so many "good questions" I think I made the nervous.