Local Politics

Wake elections officials approve bulk of absentee ballots

Posted November 10, 2020 1:44 p.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2020 8:24 p.m. EST

— A week after Election Day, officials across North Carolina continue the process of counting votes, focusing on provisional ballots cast at the polls a week ago and absentee ballots received in the days since.

Statewide, about 35,000 mailed absentee ballots have been received since Election Day. They can be accepted until 5 pm. Friday as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.

The Wake County Board of Elections spent hours Tuesday reviewing thousands of late-arriving absentee ballots to determine whether to approve and count them or reject them. The majority came in by last Friday, but a few were delayed in the mail.

The board's staff sorted the ballots into groups for the board to vote on. The largest group were ballots with all of the required information, and the board spent about an hour Tuesday morning double-checking batches of them before approving them.

Other absentee ballots needed closer review because they had to be fixed due to missing information. The board voted 3-2 along party lines to approve most of the ballots missing some witness information, and they unanimously approved some where the voters themselves had to "cure" missing information.

A third batch of five had to be reviewed because a postal worker at one office used the wrong date stamp on them. They were hand-delivered to the county elections office by the postmaster, who explained what happened, and the board approved them.

More than 130 others were postmarked after Election Day and were rejected by the board.

The board also approved ballots from deployed service members and other voters overseas.

Combined, more than 5,850 absentee ballots were counted, elections director Gary Sims said. Although they were scanned and tabulated, their impact on specific races won't be known until Friday, when the board certifies all of its results.

Because of various pending lawsuits over state election laws, county staff separated out votes that are currently allowed but which a court might rule against down the road, such as those arriving after Nov. 6 and those with problems the voter was able to fix with an affidavit.

"They’re supposed to be counted just like everything else," Sims said. "We’re just keeping them as a separate set, so they’ll be kept separately, boxed separately."

"So, if there was a change, we could easily identify what ballots those were," elections board member Gerry Cohen said.

The board will meet again Thursday to go through the 3,437 provisional ballots cast on Election Day to determine how many of those should be counted. Final vote counts are due Friday.

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