Carawan, board discuss ‘issues’

Published 6:34 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Belhaven Alderman Steve Carawan told the Beaufort County Board of Elections on Tuesday that irregularities and improper conduct by poll workers are common place at Belhaven’s polling place.

He urged the board to address the problems.

Carawan made the allegations during the board’s canvassing off all municipal elections held last week and a recount of the election for the available East End seat on the Belhaven Board of Aldermen this election cycle. After the recount, Carawan lost his seat to Tony Williams by a two-vote margin.

Carawan told the board he and others believe some of the poll workers improperly influenced voters and were not impartial regarding some activities at the polling place. Carawan said there is an “erosion in confidence” when it comes to people believing the Belhaven polling place is being operated properly.

“I’ve got issues,” Carawan told the board.

“If you have issues with things you don’t think were done quite correctly, let us know so we can address them in future elections maybe through training. Maybe it was a training issue that maybe we need to put more emphasis on next time to make the process better,” said Kellie Harris Hopkins, Beaufort County’s elections director. “Now, if there are particular issues going on that altered the outcome of the election in any way, shape or form, there’s two different protests you can give.”

The first form of protest would be focused on how the votes were tabulated, whether a machine or person made a counting error, Hopkins said. The second form of protest would focus on the voting process being manipulated to alter the outcome of an election, she noted.

Carawan said proving manipulation or improper conduct by poll workers would be difficult to do because it would be difficult to observe them the entire time the polling place is open. Carawan said he believes some people who voted in the Belhaven elections voted illegally.

“It’s not sour grapes. It’s just that in a judgment call — like allowing somebody to vote that didn’t vote, allowing somebody to vote that did vote and they know they aren’t in Belhaven. Those things do alter,” Carawan said.

“And that’s what we need to know,” Hopkins replied.

Board member Delma Blinson said that even assuming Carawan’s allegations have some merit, he would need evidence supporting the allegations before he, as a board member would act on them. Blinson urged Carawan to file a complaint with supporting evidence if he believes improper conduct occurred.

The board offered to provide Carawan a list of the people who voted in the Belhaven elections to help him identify anyone he believes was not entitled to vote in those elections. Hopkins told Carawan he has until Thursday to request that information.

Several times Carawan indicated he would not do that, but he wanted the board to be aware of the issues he raised.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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