Local News

Provisional Ballots Might Keep Wake From Meeting State Election Deadline

Posted November 9, 2004

— Provisional ballots are used when there's a question about a voter's address or correct precinct.

This year, more than 75,000 voters statewide cast provisional ballots.

That's twice as many as ever before -- and it could delay the results for several close races. Wake County board of elections chairman John Gilbert has gone through so many provisional ballots, he's stopped counting what number he's on.

"Oh, I don't know -- we've done hundreds and we have thousands left to do," Gilbert said.

Election workers can thank a new state law that expanded the use of provisional ballots.

For the first time, anyone could vote at any polling place in their county -- even though the ballot may have had different local races for where they live.

"For every single one of those we have to look at the ballot the voter cast, the ballot the voter should have voted and then denote the differences," said Cherie Poucher, of the Wake County Board of Elections.

The tedious tally by hand has staffers at the Wake County board of elections working 14-hour days -- including last weekend. But with 15,000 provisional ballots -- the most of any county -- even that may not be enough to meet the state's Tuesday deadline.

"We do not think we will make the 11:00 deadline," Poucher said.

With several tight races hinging on the results, the director of the state board of elections is preparing to grant an extension. This isn't the first time Wake County has needed an extension. The county also needed more time after the 2000 presidential election.

But back then, they only had 3-days to count the provisional ballots. This year they had a week.

Orange County may also need more time.

"It's better late, than not have the person that receives the most votes win and certified," said Gary Bartlett, director of the North Carolina Board of Elections.


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