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Counting Votes Is Easy — Except When Mecklenburg Poll Workers Are Locked Out

Mecklenburg County didn't report the results of two precincts until 1:20 a.m. Wednesday morning. Poll workers forgot some data, and then got locked out of their polling places.

Mecklenburg County votes on electronic machines, which – in theory – should make it easy to get results quickly. But in Tuesday’s election, the county’s final two precincts weren’t posted until 1:20 a.m. 

There were a series of fluke mistakes, and — at one point — volunteer poll workers were locked out of two churches, unable to retrieve critical voting information.

The delay impacted two close races — the 9th Congressional Race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, and the N.C. House race between Democrat Rachel Hunt and Republican Bill Brawley.

Here's what happened:

When the polls close on election night, volunteers are supposed to collect flash drives, a spool with paper records of votes and a cartridge containing all votes.

But poll workers at the Good Shepard Church in south Charlotte forgot to bring the voting cartridge uptown. And workers at the McKee Road Baptist Church a few miles away forgot the flash drives.

"Trust me, it’s a long day, and they probably get flustered," Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson said. "It’s happened before where we have to send them back out.”

Once he realized the poll workers didn’t have all the data, they had trouble getting back into the two churches to retrieve it. The doors were locked.

At Good Shepard Baptist Church off South Tryon Street, Dickerson said his volunteers were locked out when they returned.

“We could not back get into the church," he said. "Nobody was answering the emergency call numbers that we had. We had two or three people down there the whole time, and one was a police officer who was a member of the church. Finally, about 12:30 or 1 o’clock, one of my guys found someone with the alarm number so we could get in and pick up the machine.”

After that, the poll workers had to drive back to uptown, 20 minutes away — with candidates in tight races eagerly awaiting.