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Brunswick County Board of Elections Director Greg Bellamy says there are no problems with voting machines as early voting continues in the county through this Saturday, Nov. 3.
In the past week, some residents have complained to The Brunswick Beacon about problematic machines that, had they not been paying attention, showed them casting votes for the wrong presidential candidate, they claim.
Another man complained about the use of numbered ballots and a concern his vote choices could be monitored.
Those involved are urging fellow voters to pay attention to what’s shown on the review screens and double-check their ballots.
Shallotte Point’s Nancy Nagy said last week a machine she voted on at the early voting site at the National Guard Armory in Shallotte repeatedly showed her voting for the opposite presidential candidate from the one for whom she voted.
Nagy said she pressed the button “15 times” and it repeatedly showed her voting for the wrong candidate.
An elections official at the site told Nagy she might have placed her finger too high on the button, which registered the other candidate instead of the one she wanted.
Holden Beach resident Brent Shaver told the Beacon he experienced the same problem with a machine at an early-voting site in Supply.
He said the machine showed him voting for the opposite presidential candidate rather than the one for whom he had voted. He said he complained to an elections official on duty at the site.
“I just told ’em I had a problem and was pretty concerned about it,” Shaver said. “My point is that I’m 61 years old and I take my voting very seriously.”
Tuesday, local Realtor Martha Lee contacted the Beacon and said she also encountered a problematic voting machine at the National Guard Armory. She said the machine also registered the opposite candidate rather than the one she was trying to vote for in the presidential election.
An elections official assisted her in clearing the vote, then she said the machine registered the wrong candidate a second time.
“It upset me so much, I called [state Rep.] Frank Iler,” Lee said.
“I’ve been voting all my life, and I never had anything like that happen,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t make a mistake like that.”
Bellamy said the machine that Nagy used was either recalibrated or removed as a precaution. Bellamy said sometimes the wrong buttons get pushed on the machines.
Shaver said Bellamy told him the machine he voted on was recalibrated as well.
“I can just tell you I’ve never had that happen before anywhere, and I think it’s really troublesome,” Shaver said. “My point is, if somebody is little bit older than I am and in a hurry, they could punch buttons and easily miss it. I just think it’s a very serious problem.”
Shaver added he hopes it’s not a problem that’s going to affect the election.
“I hope I was the only one, but if there’s hundreds or more, that could make a difference,” he said.
Bellamy said there may have been a problem with a machine at the Shallotte voting site. He added when a voter thinks there’s a problem, “then it is.”
“We will recalibrate a machine sometimes more often than not,” he said.
Bellamy said Monday his department might have had two or three bona fide situations where machines had gotten out of calibration.
Bellamy advised voters to read instructions posted for the machines and to review their ballots on the screens before they press the “vote” button.
“People need to have more confidence in themselves and machinery,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy said he doesn’t think voters think the machines are faulty.
“They’re wanting reassurance that they aren’t,” he said.
Ocean Isle Beach resident Douglas Wood had a different complaint after he voted at the Shallotte site on the first day of early voting Oct. 18.
Wood said he was given a numbered ballot and that the elections worker punched the number into the machine. He said that would enable elections officials to look up his number and see how he voted. He says that’s an invasion of his voting privacy.
“Hell, they might as well call you up and ask how you vote, and if they don’t like it, don’t count it,” Wood said.
He said his next step would be to complain to the state attorney general.
Bellamy said the numbers are used in early voting, for any votes cast outside of Election Day next Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The reason for that is if anyone should challenge a voter, the board of elections has a way to track a ballot and remove it if it is found to be invalid.
“If you didn’t have a numerical value, there would be no way to remove that ballot, that vote,” Bellamy said.
He said elections officials don’t have a way of getting in to actually see the document if, in fact, a challenge to a ballot is upheld.
Bellamy also cited North Carolina General Statute 163-227.2 (e1) covering retrievable ballots and authorizing they can be numbered to “allow for retrievability in one-stop voting on direct record electronic equipment where no paper ballot is used.”
“It’s law,” Bellamy said.
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email email@example.com.