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N.C. Election Officials Want To Ensure Every Vote Counts

Posted October 13, 2004

— In the 2000 presidential election, more than 3 million North Carolinians showed up at the polls. More than 100,000 did not vote for president and not all of them by choice.

"I think a lot of them probably were mistakes. I just can't imagine that 100,000 people went in 2000, which was a pretty heated election, and they went to vote and they chose not to vote for that one race," said Tara Pirohit, of the Institute for Southern Studies.

Election officials call them "undervotes" or "residual" votes. While some people may have chosen not to select a presidential candidate, it is possible there was a machine malfunction, or more likely, a mistake by the voter.

"You have a person not following the instruction and not marking the target area where the sensor can pick up what the person marked," said Gary Bartlett, of the State Board of Elections.

There is another potential problem as well. North Carolina is one of only two states where a straight ticket vote does not include the presidency, which means voters need to choose a presidential candidate separately.

"The fact that when you vote straight ticket does not include president is a serious voter education problem, that that information is not being advertised more widely," Pirohit said.

With more than a half-million new registered voters this year, election officials will put extra workers at the polls to educate voters. They say the results of the last presidential race is a reminder that every vote counts.

State elections officials are still tallying the number of new voters in North Carolina. As of Sunday, almost 529,000 people had registered. In 2000, it was 473,000. Once all forms are in, officials expect to hit at least 600,000 new voters. So far, most new voters have registered Democrat.

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