Elections worker in North Carolina charged with changing 2016 vote totals

A former elections worker in North Carolina was indicted Monday by a Durham County grand jury for mishandling provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election.

Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, was charged on the counts of obstruction of justice — a felony — and failure to discharge a duty of his office — a misdemeanor.

An investigation of the state’s elections board determined 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.

Elections board officials discovered the problem during a routine audit of primary results in April 2016.

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.

According to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Rawling’s actions were committed to avoid having to report a discrepancy in the number of provisional ballots in possession of the Board of Elections and the number counted on canvass day.

Unlike regular ballots, provisional ballots aren’t counted at a polling place on Election Day. Provisional ballots are issued when there is a question about a voter’s eligibility. They are collected at polling places and then taken to county elections boards to determine if they should be counted.

“The State Board’s top priority is ensuring the integrity of elections so voters have confidence in the process,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, said in a statement. “We will continue to hold accountable elections workers and voters who violate election laws.”

Rawling worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15 primary, but resigned later that month in 2016.