Raleigh, N.C. — It took more than two hours after polls closed Tuesday night for significant election results to start flowing in Wake County, a change from years past as the county moved from transmitting vote totals electronically to driving them to a central location.
The reason: Hacking concerns in the wake of election tampering attempts around the country.
Wake County Elections Director Gary Sims said he was satisfied with the way things went Tuesday. Half of the precincts in the state reported totals before anything but early voting results were available online from Wake County, but the county’s final results came in around the same time as in other large counties.
State election officials commended the county on its effort despite the wait, and Wake County Board of Elections Chairman Greg Flynn said he was “very satisfied.”
“We are living in a whole new elections world, and we believe reducing the risk of external tampering far outweighs the convenience of earlier results,” State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement spokesman Patrick Gannon said in a statement.
Wake County was one of the last North Carolina counties to move away from modems to send in vote totals. It may tweak its new plan heading into the November general election, which should see much higher turnout, but Sims said not to expect a major changes in a timetable that transmitted final results to the state at about 10:50 p.m.
That’s roughly on schedule with what the board told news outlets to expect last month, when it said final machines should arrive at the warehouse around 10:30 p.m.
“And then, when it did happen, everybody said, ‘What’s going wrong?'” Sims said Wednesday.
The process went like this: After polls closed at 7:30 p.m., chief judges in each of the county’s 204 precincts reconciled results, which were posted at each polling place, and drove their voting machines to 10 drop-off points around the county. The machines were put on trucks and taken to a warehouse in northwest Raleigh, where they were unloaded and data was uploaded. It takes some time for that data to populate in the state’s elections results website and to media outlets.
Sims and Flynn said trucks were used because logistics at the warehouse wouldn’t allow for 204 vehicles to unload, securely, in a short time frame. Sims said he may add more trucks and drop-off points for November, when people are more likely to be waiting in line to vote at 7:30 p.m., potentially delaying poll closings.
The first truck arrived at the county’s warehouse about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 10:15 p.m., 67 precincts had been uploaded. The last upload came at 10:49 p.m., according to state records.
The final upload from Mecklenburg County, which has 195 precincts, came at 10:26 p.m., according to the state. Guilford County’s 165 precincts finished at 10:50 p.m., and Forsyth County’s 101 precincts at 11:27 p.m.
Flynn said people have come to expect “instant results,” but that’s not realistic anymore.
Sims said you can’t change a process in place since the 1990s and expect “everybody to say this is hunky-dory.”
But “what went wrong,” Sims said, “was nothing.”