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Moore County Election Mistake

On Tuesday, April 30th, the Moore County Board of Elections held a meeting (the archive of the live stream is linked below). The stated purpose of that meeting was to set early voting locations and times for the 2024 general election. At the end of the meeting (starting at about the one hour, thirty-three minute mark in the linked video), the Moore County Director of Elections notified members of the Board about a discrepancy in the data reporting of the March 2024 primary elections. It is important to note that the Director, Ms. Dixon, is confident that this discrepancy did NOT affect the results of the races. Ms. Dixon assured the Board members that each candidate was credited with the correct number of actual votes cast.

The discrepancy seems to have only affected the reporting of the numbers of two specific precincts in Moore County - Carthage and Pinehurst B2 (Pinecrest). According to the explanation given to the Board of Elections by Ms. Dixon, the thumb drives (or “sticks” as she referred to them) containing the voting data for those two precincts were inadvertently swapped. The data for Pinehurst B2 was uploaded and labeled as Carthage and vice versa.

If this mistake had been caught and corrected by either the staff at the Moore County Board of Elections or the North Carolina Board of Elections before the certification of the election, this wouldn’t be a story. However (and by Ms. Dixon’s own admission), it wasn’t caught by those people we entrust to protect the integrity of our votes. It was caught by a private citizen long after the election had been certified.


Before I go any further, I want to emphasize once more that this mistake did not affect the outcome of the election. Luckily, it was a primary race and every party or unaffiliated ballot in every precinct contained the exact same races and the exact same candidates. In this day and age where untrue conspiracy theories about the integrity of our elections are running rampant and approximately one third of voters in the United States do not believe the reported results of the 2020 election, it is imperative that this mistake not be used to dispute the results of the primary in March or the general election in November.

Having said that - this situation is very disturbing.


After each election, the full results of each precinct are made available to the public. That data is analyzed by campaign staff, political scientists, and private citizens for a wide variety of reasons. For campaigns, the data is useful to see how each candidate did in each precinct. It's an important tool to plan how to allocate campaign resources in the future. For political scientists, it helps identify voting patterns and makes it easier to predict which precincts will vote which way in the future. For private citizens, many times it's just a hobby. In all of the years that I have been following politics in Moore County and comparing notes with other election watchers, I have never seen any sort of problem of any nature with the reported data. Unfortunately, in the March primary, there were enough inconsistencies that people began asking serious questions..


One private citizen analyzed the data extremely closely. After close study, it became apparent that in two precincts the numbers just were not adding up. In the Pinehurst District the data said that 454 people asked for a Republican ballot but that Donald Trump got 540 votes. In the Carthage district, the data said 627 people requested Republican ballots, but only 451 people cast a vote for president. There were other inconsistencies in the data, and the citizen was concerned enough to pull his analysis and his numbers together and notify the Director of Elections in Moore County.


Ms. Dixon seemed confused by the data that was presented to her, however she did reach out to both the North Carolina Board of Elections and, apparently, her own legal representation. It's at that point that the reason for the discrepancy was discovered and reported to the county Board of Elections.


The concerning part of all of this is that it should have been caught by the precinct workers who were entering the data on election day. The precinct names did not match up to the data on the thumb drive that was being uploaded and the number of votes did not match up to the total number of registered voters who voted in that precinct on that day. It also should have been caught by the state board of elections during canvassing. For whatever reason (and Ms. Dixon was unable to explain this to the members of the Board of Elections), neither county nor state elections staff caught the glaring errors in the data and it was left to a private citizen to notify election officials of their mistake. Most alarming of all, neither the Director of Elections nor her staff seemed to grasp the problems with the data when it was first reported to them and they could not offer an articulate explanation to the Board members. When pressed as to why no one caught this mistake except a private citizen, the only answer offered was “he’s a data guy.” I'm sorry, I'm not good with data either, but when I clearly see a large gap in presidential votes cast versus the number of ballots requested in two separate precincts, even I can see there is a huge problem with the data.


Ms. Dixon has pledged to institute better training procedures for precinct workers to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. That's a step in the right direction, but given the discussion at Tuesday's meeting and the clear lack of understanding of the problem by election staff, I would also suggest Ms. Dixon hire her own “data guy” for future elections.

The worst part of all of this is that it never needed to happen. People make mistakes, but this mistake should have been caught on election night when the data was uploaded. It should have been caught again by the Moore County Board of Elections staff, and it should have been caught again by the North Carolina Board of Elections. I'm glad that the people in Moore County can be secure in the fact that no vote totals were changed by this mistake and that every candidate received the correct number of votes for every office. Unfortunately, I worry that this mistake will be used to dispute the outcome of some of our local races in November if certain candidates do not win. We have election deniers and conspiracy theorists sitting as elected members of our governing boards. If their favored candidates do not win in the November election, don't think for one minute that this mistake will not be used to justify trying to overturn a free and fair election. Ms. Dixon needs to make a public statement and be transparent with the people about what happened, why it happened, why it was not caught and corrected in a timely manner, and what steps she is putting in place to ensure it never happens again.


Director Dixon and the Moore County Board of Elections cannot change the past, but they can offer the public the opportunity to be confident about their local elections in the future.


***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at moorevoicesnc@gmail.com.


Link to 4/30 Board of Elections meeting:




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