A former Durham County elections worker has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor related to the mishandling of provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election, officials said Wednesday. Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, pleaded guilty last Friday to failure to discharge a duty of his office and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, suspended to a year on probation and a $500 fine, according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. An obstruction of justice charge was dismissed. Elections board officials discovered the problem during a routine audit of primary results in April 2016. The issue involved provisional ballots, which are given to voters who experience some sort of administrative issue when they show up at a polling place, such as a glitch in voter registration or trying to cast a ballot in the wrong precinct.
Unlike regular ballots, provisional ballots aren’t counted at a polling place on Election Day. Rather, they are collected and delivered to the county board of elections to determine whether they should be counted, and those deemed acceptable are then run through tabulators on the canvass day, when all vote totals are certified.
Investigators 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 to avoid having to report to the Durham County Board of Elections a discrepancy in the number of provisional ballots in the board’s possession and the number counted on canvass day, officials said.