The Winston-Salem Journal has written a couple of articles about the on-going troubles surrounding the Forsyth County elections director, Rob Coffman.
In the most recent article, on Dec. 3, it was reported that the three members of Forsyth County Board of Elections unanimously voted to ask the State Board of Elections (SBOE) look into nearly 600 voter registration cards that had been held at the Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) Post Office. (More than 100 were four years old). According to election policy and procedure and according to U.S. Post Office regulations, the undeliverable cards are to be returned to the sender (the Forsyth BOE) by the post office. But, according to Coffman, the local BOE had an “informal agreement” with the university post office for the post office to hold the cards and the BOE would retrieve them when notified.
Civitas reported in an earlier article, posted on Sept. 18, that WSSU’s director of media and public relations, Nancy Young, said that the university’s postal employees had called the Forsyth BOE numerous times to let them know that the undeliverable mail was stacking up — but the BOE never retrieved them. Coffman continues to dispute that claim though, in the Dec. 3 article, he responded to Young’s quote by saying “we’ve never had a call that was ignored.”
Coffman has a proclivity for throwing others under the bus when he sees trouble coming his way. He did the same thing in the aftermath of a fiasco that included accusations he created and fostered a hostile work environment, and skirted election laws. At least five employees who either made official complaints or gave statements that described Coffman’s inappropriate behavior (including calling an African-American staff member a “crack ho”) have either been fired or resigned as a result of toxic working conditions.
In addition to the cards, the local board also asked the SBOE “to determine if the ‘registration, printing, mailing, and overall handling of these election documents’ was in full compliance with general statutes and elections laws,” the newspaper reported.
For the people of Forsyth County, the concern should be that inevitability Coffman’s behavior will affect his ability to administer elections effectively and with any perception of integrity. One could even point to the most recent municipal elections in September and November of this year as an example.
In addition to the discovery of the hundreds of voter verification cards, we read about questionable absentee ballots and also a botched recount in a contest for a municipal election. That race appeared to be won by the incumbent by one vote, but after a provisional ballot was counted the tally ended in a tie. Following a recount, with the vote still tied, the challenger won a blind draw and was named the winner. But, a week later one of the observers to the recount pointed out that the total number of votes in the recount was one higher than the initial count. This revelation led to another recount, which ended with the incumbent winning by one vote. Unfortunately, this debacle led to the disclosure of the provisional voter’s identity, which in turn revealed how she voted. This should never have happened. In fact, North Carolina law is clear, 163-165.1(e) states that; “Voted ballots and paper and electronic records of individual voted ballots shall not be disclosed to members of the public in such a way as to disclose how a particular voter voted, unless a court orders otherwise.”
On second thought, that sentence should read: “For the people of Forsyth County, Coffman’s behavior and performance may have made it impossible to have confidence he can administer elections effectively and with full assurance of integrity.”