Early Voting "Glitch" Compromising Election Results? - TribPapers

Early Voting “Glitch” Compromising Election Results?

Photo by Greg Melahn

Buncombe County – A Buncombe County election worker has concerns over a glitch in the voting machines that allows a voter to vote multiple times within 15 minutes. According to the precinct judge, at least one member of the county’s board of elections knows about it and has the emails to prove it.

Kay Olsen is a precinct captain for early voting and chief judge on election day in the Leicester area. During the 2020 election, she says she discovered a glitch when one of the poll workers wanted to vote during a slow period during early voting. The worker asked Olsen about voting, and she said yes, seeing one of the workers issuing ballots to voters. The worker did, but she messed up her ballot as she was voting.

After conferring with the election board office, Olsen told the woman to return to the worker who issued the first ballot and have him re-issue another ballot. However, that worker was waiting on another voter. So she went to another poll worker to get the ballot, but instead of being re-issued her ballot, the system gave her a new ballot. Upon noticing the issue, the woman returned to Olsen and said, “We have a problem.” Olsen called the board office back, and Oslen said she was told by Neggy Fox, Election Preparation Specialist, there was a glitch in the system.

“Oh yes, we have a glitch in the system,” Olsen said Fox told her. “You can vote as many times as possible in 15-minutes and get separate ballots.” Olsen said she replied, “Neggy, that’s not right after she checked in…it [the computer] should have read I voted.” That way, the system would have registered that the person had already voted and not allowed another ballot.

Olsen said she was told to take one of the ballots and write the word “spoiled” on it, which Olsen said is not uncommon.

Upcoming election, Olsen says glitch still exists

Fast-forward to the upcoming 2022 election, and Olsen started wondering if the problem in 2020 had been fixed. On April 25th of this year, Olsen emailed Fox about the glitch and asked if it had been fixed.

In the email, Olsen wrote to Fox, saying, “During the last election, we had a teammate that decided to vote during some downtime. She went to a coworker and got a ballot. She then went to vote. She screwed up the ballot and turned around to get another ballot. By that time, the teammate she got the ballot from was busy with a voter. So, she went to another teammate and got a new ballot: like a new voter.

“We then realized she had gotten two different ballots. We called down to election headquarters and were told that there was a glitch in the system that if someone tried to vote twice in 15 minutes, the system would give out two ballots.

“We were told you guys knew about this, but kept it quiet. Do you know if this has been fixed?”

About 30 minutes later, Fox replied to Olsen’s email, stating, “Hi Kay. The computers do not talk to each other, and we can’t change that. To avoid this from happening at all, we tell workers during training to use the same laptop that a person was voted on if they come back with an error or the worker makes an error.

“Regardless, when you audit, you would know you were one ballot off. And when we audit on the backend, we would be able to see that the voter had two voting records in conflict status. We would research and cancel one vote, so the voter can only vote one time, no matter what.

“I hope this answers your questions or concerns. Thanks!”

The Tribune checked with the election board about the glitch

On October 4th, the Buncombe County Election Board held an online press conference for local media about the upcoming election and early voting. During the meeting, Corinne Duncan, director of the election board, was asked about the glitch.

“I am not aware of that glitch,” said Duncan. “It’s not something that happens here.” Duncan was told the Tribune was in possession of an email from Fox about the glitch. The Tribune was told the board would follow up on the question and get back to us.

Later in the press conference, Duncan circled back around and said, “If we want to go into hypothetical land…even if something like that happened, if there were some specific issue where people could physically go and do that, it would be caught. There’s many, many checks and balances. Even if it happened, it would not affect the actual casting of the ballot.”

Asked about a more detailed explanation of the “checks and balances,” Duncan said she could do a “two-hour talk on how the board audits elections,” but summed it up by saying, “There are things that happen prior to the election. There are things that happen during the election and things that happen after the election. After the election is the canvassing period, and that’s a really important part. That’s why when you get the results on election day, those aren’t the official results.” She said the paper system has to match the computer system, which has to match the number system, adding they also sample audit, which is open to the public.

The Board follows-up with the Tribune

Two days after the press conference, Lillian Grovus, Director of Communication & Public Engagement, emailed the Tribune to say, “There was no glitch in 2020 that allowed people to vote multiple times. If anything like that had occurred, we would have had to have filed an incident report with the state. In order to better understand what you’ve heard and what happened, would you like to share those details here? Deputy Director Neggy Fox is copied on this email.”

In response, the Tribune sent a copy of the content of Fox’s email responding to Olsen’s email about the glitch. We asked, “So you are saying the incident never happened and was not reported to her on April 25th? And Neggy Fox did not respond to an email about this matter?”

“Without looking up this voter’s information or having the email exchange in hand, we don’t want to speculate on what conversation took place,” replied Govus. “What I can tell you is that there wasn’t an incident or glitch or error. Remember, the computers are not connected to each other, and that’s by design and the same across the state.”

She went on to state, “I hope that makes sense. If there had been a glitch or an error or a situation involving the machines, we would create an incident report and submit it to the state. If you were to publish an article that there was a glitch that allowed people to vote more than once, that would not be factual. Those Board meetings where audits are done are open to the public and also streamed live.”

The Tribune has provided the emails from Olsen to Fox along with Fox’s reply and asked for a response. The newspaper has also requested all emails from and to Fox’s board of elections’ email address on April 25th. This is an ongoing story.

Reporter notes: Besides being a precinct judge, Olsen is also a member of WNC Freedom 2020. The group’s website states, “We are a group of Americans in Western North Carolina (WNC) who believe in the individual. We believe you are important! Your voice counts!” Also after the deadline, Director Corinne Duncan did confirm the possibility of a person voting more than once did exist during early voting, but it would be caught before the end of the day. More on this next week.

Editor’s note: Be sure to read the related commentary on page 19.