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To Protect the Secrecy of the Ballot in Second Primary, State Board Removes Precinct-Level Data from Website

This afternoon, the State Board of Elections took important steps to ensure that no one could determine how any individual voted in the May 14 second primary using data on the State Board’s website.

Specifically, the State Board prevented from display on the precinct-level details of election results for each county in the May 14 second primary. This includes the “Contest Details,” “Detailed Results” and "Download" sections of the Election Results Dashboard, as well as what we call the media results file, which media organizations use to download and report election results to the public. The website continues to show overall county-level and statewide results, and results by voting method for each county.

Because of the particularly low turnout in Tuesday’s second primary, the likelihood is greater than usual that all voters who voted in person at a particular voting site, or who voted absentee by mail in a single county, cast a ballot for the same candidate in a particular contest. This, in combination with public records of which voters participated in the election (“voter history” records), could make it possible to identify the ballot selections of specific voters. Under state law, election records “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.”

N.C.G.S. § 163-165.1(e). The agency took these actions to comply with this law and protect the secrecy of voters’ ballots.

This change to the website does not affect the actual election results. Aggregated, unofficial election results are still available on the Election Results Dashboard. The tallying of those vote totals was overseen by the bipartisan county boards of elections on Election Day. Those boards of elections will now carry out various checks to verify the accuracy of the vote tallies during the 10-day canvass period, which culminates in the certification of official election results.

“As elections officials, one of our guiding principles is protecting the secrecy of a voter’s ballot,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Although we have typically posted precinct-level details of unofficial election results, this low-turnout election was anything but typical, and as a consequence, we took steps to protect the secrecy of the ballot.”

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