Local News

Provisional Ballot Problems May Lead To Changes In Election Laws

Posted February 7, 2005

— Problems with provisional ballots could result in new election laws. The news comes as no consolation to thousands of people whose November votes did not count.

When more than 3 million North Carolinians went to the polls in November, more than 11,000 people went to the wrong place. They were given a provisional ballot and voted anyway.

In a challenge to the results of the state superintendent's race, the state Supreme Court said those votes should not count. In its opinion, the state Supreme Court said it must consider state law before looking at the state Constitution. It points to a statute, which said a person must live in their precinct for 30 days to be eligible to vote.

"The court said if you show up in somebody else's precinct, your vote won't count," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.

Grassroots groups like Common Cause call the decision unfair and call on lawmakers to prevent the same thing from happening again.

"Here you have 10,000 folks who on Election Day, go to the polls, take a provisional ballot, think they are doing the right thing, vote and now they are told that their vote does not count. That doesn't make sense," said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause. "The people who we the citizens elect to make our laws have to get involved."

"We now have to look at whether what we have in the statutes is adequate," Ross said.

Democrats in the state House are already talking about making changes to state law. State elections director Gary Bartlett said he will push to make sure they do.

"We have learned a lot, and we know there are some elections laws that need to be redrafted and made more clear," he said.

A Superior Court judge must now decide how to adjust the votes in the school superintendent's race. Republican Bill Fletcher trails Democrat June Atkinson by about 8,500 votes. A judge will consider the case later in February.

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