LUMBERTON — On Monday, the tabulator at the Robeson County Board of Elections office will be whirring with the sound of more than 3,600 votes being counted — again.
The 3,614 votes cast in the five Robeson County precincts that lie in congressional District 7 — Lumber Bridge, Parkton, Red Springs, Shannon and Oxendine — are being counted a second time at the request of Republican challenger David Rouzer, who now trails Lumberton native and incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre by 655 votes.
McIntyre, who is seeking a ninth term, is calling the recount a waste of taxpayer money.
Rouzer, a state senator from Johnston County, was able to get the votes recounted because McIntyre’s apparent winning margin was far smaller than the threshold of 1 percent of all the votes cast, nearly 337,000.
In a statement, Rouzer said he wants to ensure every “legal vote” cast is properly and accurately counted, pointing to the potential for human error as exhibited by a vote-counting mistake found and corrected in Bladen County. Poll workers there counted the votes from one precinct twice. The flub was discovered during a routine check of the tally following the election.
“In a race this close, accidental human error could easily change the outcome,” Rouzer said.
Dock Locklear, director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said Friday that about 12 staff members will be putting in a full day’s work Monday and — “if needed” — Tuesday.
“I think there are some that have to do the whole county,” Locklear said. “We’re fortunate to only have (to count five precincts).”
Gary O. Bartlett, executive director of the state Board of Elections, estimated the cost of a machine count at about $50,000 for all of District 7. But that cost could triple if a hand count is forced.
Bartlett said a candidate can ask that a random precinct be counted by hand, and if those results differ from the machine count, the candidate can then request that all votes in the district be recounted by hand.
“If it’s a hand-to-eye count, it will be triple (the $50,000) cost,” he said.
According to Bartlett, a “bipartisan team” of election officials in each county will re-enter ballots into the tabulator “just like on Election Day.” The results will then be tallied and sent to the state board.
McIntyre secured Robeson County with a majority vote of a little more than 71 percent — winning by at least 100 votes in the five county precincts that lie in his district and by 629 in one-stop voting. He declared victory on Election Day with a lead of 411 votes. A subsequent count of provisional and late absentee ballots from District 7 left McIntyre with 168,697 votes to Rouzer’s 168,042 — a lead of 655.