Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Elections on Thursday waded through 7,940 provisional ballots from the March primary, making decisions on which would be counted, partially counted or rejected.
Although county boards and the State Board of Elections give results on the night of an election – Wake County reported results based on 269,664 ballots counted – thousands of ballots wait to be counted until the county canvass. Wake County had so many provisional ballots that staff needed extra time to process them and delayed the bulk of their canvass work from Tuesday until Thursday.
The provisional ballots that came to the board Thursday morning were cast due to some administrative problem with the voter's registration. Among the 3,600 provisional ballots that were deemed eligible almost immediately were those cast by registered voters who hadn't reported a move within the county and voters whose names were overlooked when poll workers tried to find them in a poll book.
Of that batch of 3,600 cleared votes, 104 were voters who encountered the state's newly implemented voter ID law. Some told elections officials they had IDs but forgot to bring them to the polls.
"These individuals had the ability to deliver ID to our office by Monday at noon," said Nicole Shumaker, the deputy director of the elections board.
Others in that group of 104 executed "reasonable impediment" forms, explaining why they did not have and could not obtain eligible IDs.
Another 2,099 ballots were partially counted. Some of these voters cast ballots in the wrong precinct, so their votes for offices with locally drawn lines, such as state House or county commissioner, might not have counted, but votes for statewide races, including those cast for governor or the Connect NC bond issue, would have counted.
Of the partially counted ballots, 1,313 voters were registered in one party but attempted to vote in the other party's primary. Only unaffiliated voters – those that aren't registered with either party – can choose which primary they vote in. Other voters must vote in their own party's primary.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that much of number was driven by Democrats who wanted to participate in the Republican primary, either in support of or opposition to presidential candidate Donald Trump. Preliminary and incomplete statewide numbers show 4,182 Democrats tried to vote Republican ballots, while 1,015 Republicans asked for Democratic ballots.
Unfortunately, only one race will count for those would-be cross-party voters: the choice on the $2 billion bond referendum.
The most difficult decisions of the Wake County canvass for the three-member elections board had to do with voters who did not completely navigate the new voter ID rules.
For example, 129 voters cast ballots and neither filled out a reasonable impediment form nor came to the Board of Elections office to show they have a valid ID.
There were 20 voters who listed "other" as the reason they were declaring a reasonable impediment, bypassing the pre-approved reasons such as being unable to get off work to go to the Division of Motor Vehicles or lacking transportation to the DMV.
Of those 20, the board voted to count seven ballots. Among the reasons given for those seven approved "other" ballots were two voters who said they had their driver's licenses revoked and taken away by the DMV in the run-up to the election.
Among the 13 remaining "other" voters who were rejected, one said he had a license but didn't have time to get it. Another said his or her passport was in another state, and one conjured the still-festering controversy over whether the voter ID law is needed or a good idea, stating "principle" as the impediment to showing ID.
Members of the Wake County Board of Elections were scheduled to finish their work on the county canvass later Thursday. The State Board of Elections will likely canvass to officially tally and certify election results from across the state in the coming weeks.