Thousands of ballots not counted under new voting law, watchdog group says
Posted May 12, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A North Carolina elections watchdog group says changes to the state's voting law in 2013 prevented thousands of ballots cast by residents across the state from counting in last year's general election.
A report out this month from Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan research organization, says the elimination of provisions allowing same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting required elections officials to eliminate more than 2,300 provisional ballots cast by voters in 2014.
Before the General Assembly passed changes to the state's law in 2013, which will also phase in photo identification requirements for voters in 2016, registered voters outside their assigned precincts could still have their top choices counted as long as they voted in their county. Same-day registration also allowed residents to correct problems before casting a ballot.
Without those "safety provisions," Democracy North Carolina says a broad mix of voters – 47 percent Democrat and 26 percent each Republican and unaffiliated – were omitted from the political process.
"These 2,300 folks who previously would have had their vote counted were essentially silenced, and we think these folks are really just the tip of the iceberg," Isela Gutierrez, with Democracy North Carolina, said.
Ernestine Perry planned to cast her ballot at a polling place across the street from her Durham home, where she had voted before.
"I had to return to my second job, so I was kind of in a rush. Then, I had to take the kids to the babysitter before my job," Perry said.
But after elections officials said her precinct changed to another one miles away, she filled out a provisional ballot. That ballot wasn't tallied.
"I think it should still count," Perry, a registered Democrat, said. "I think, if you can cast a vote with a provisional ballot in early voting, it should also count on the day you're supposed to actually vote."
Harnett County resident Todd Penny, 19, said he thought he registered through the state Division of Motor Vehicles. But when he tried to vote early, elections officials had no record of his registration.
"My first time voting, you know, everybody's going to be excited by that," Penny, a registered Republican, said. "It's kind of a big deal, so of course, I wish it would count."
State Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, voted for the law changes in 2013.
"I can always understand frustration with almost everything we do up here," Torbett said.
He said the intent of the changes was to prevent elections fraud.
"What can we do to disable the opportunity to taint an election or have a flawed election based on people voting that actually shouldn't be voting?" Torbett said.
Gutierrez said that notion doesn't help the thousands of voters who weren't counted in 2014 – or the many more the group says left the polls without filling out a provisional ballot.
"We think it's a problem anytime an eligible voter or a legitimate voter isn't able to cast a vote," she said. "For us, that's a kind of voter fraud."
Data provided by Democracy North Carolina shows the breakdown of votes not counted in the 2014 election the group says would have been counted under previous versions of the law.
|Category||% of uncounted||% of registered voters||Total uncounted|