Local News

Provisional Ballots May Make Difference In Tight N.C. Races

Posted November 4, 2004 9:14 a.m. EST

— Many people are wondering whether their vote in this year's election actually counted. This year's election produced the largest number of provisional ballots ever.

"Because of the large number of voters who participated in this election, we had just over 3.4 million people participate and certainly, most everyone do not tell us when they move and of course, that will generate provisional ballots," said Gary Bartlett, of the state Board of Elections.

Officials said one reason for the long lines at the polls was due to the redistricting battle in the General Assembly.

"Precinct lines have been frozen since about 2000. Some of our urban areas are just inundated with new voters and it causes long lines when you cannot divide precincts and generate new ones," Bartlett said.

Patty Starling, who cast a provisional ballot, is among the tens of thousands who do not know whether their votes counted.

"I've voted for over 18 years and it's the first time I've been told my vote didn't count or might not count," she said.

County election officials are currently looking over the provisional ballots. Voters will not get answers until next week. There could be anywhere between 50,000 to 75,000 provisional ballots that have to be counted, which could make a difference in tight races, such as the

state superintendent race

that is too close to call.

"This is a very long process. This is the beginning. We anticipate working from now all through the weekend," said Cherie Poucher, of the Wake County Board of Elections.

State election officials are looking to two areas where there were voting problems. Officials said a machine malfunctioned in Carteret County and in Yadkin County, some ballots may have been counted twice.

Officials with the state Board of Elections said the state may not have set a record for voter turnout, but it came close. Officials said voter turnout was 63 percent. The record of 68 percent was set in 1984.

Long lines were a hallmark of the 2004 election. So many people went to the polls in Cumberland County, some people who were in line when the polls closed at 7:30 p.m. did not cast their ballot until after 10 p.m. A half-hour after the polls closed in Holly Springs in Wake County, people were still waiting in line to vote.