“You try to run an election and see how easy it is.” – Harold Fipps, Chairman of Columbus County Board of Elections
Just when it appeared that machines suffering from humidity-induced malfunctions were to be the chief contender to a smooth-running Election Day, Columbus County Board of Elections enters the ring.
This morning, a number of Tabor City voters were turned away at their precinct because ballots were not in place by the time polls opened. In fact, it wasn’t until two hours later that those necessary ballots found their way to the polling site.
According to the Tabor-Loris Tribune, James and Michelle Hill sat outside their precinct waiting for the correct ballots to arrive only to go inside and find yet another problem: Michelle was told she was registered in Chadbourn, not Tabor City. Michelle’s husband James says she has never lived in Chadbourn.
Sadly, the Hills aren’t the only ones impacted by Columbus County’s lack of preparedness. Other voters who showed up prior to 8:30 AM had three less-than-desirable options: wait at their precinct until their ballots arrived, return later to vote, or pass up their opportunity to cast a ballot because of personal time constraints.
In response to this problem, the North Carolina Board of Elections has decided to hold an emergency meeting today at 4:30 to consider Columbus County Board of Election’s request for a two hour extension.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Columbus County Board of Elections has demonstrated ineptitude in carrying out its electoral responsibilities. One of the 19 foreign nationals indicted on election fraud charges placed numerous votes in this county in 2008, 2010, and 2016 general elections. In the 2014 midterms there were also reports of voting machines down on Election Day.
According to the Civitas Partisan Index, Columbus County has divided partisan leanings. So, it’s difficult to tell if one party stands to lose more than another by Columbus Board of Election’s apparent error.
However, for the individual voter who has been given a needless midterm headache, that’s not the primary issue. Instead, the chief transgression is that their right as a citizen has been needlessly delayed. And for that reason alone, it wouldn’t hurt for Chairman Fipps to issue an apology.