11/13/04 — Good work: Board made complex election look smooth

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Good work: Board made complex election look smooth

One aspect of the voting in Wayne County has made us all happy — liberal, conservative or moderate. That is the way in which the election was conducted.

This one was extremely complex. Congressional districts and state House and Senate districts cut the county in two, and county commissioner and school board lines cut across precincts. This seriously complicates the assignment of proper ballots to individual voters according to their addresses.

Moreover, 2,500 people voted on “provisional” ballots — ballots that must be checked after the election to make sure the voters who used them were legally qualified. And there were three weeks of early voting in three locations. Those ballots — about half of the votes cast — had to be assigned to the precincts where the voters live.

Despite all this, it was one of the smoothest elections in memory in Wayne County, which has seen its share of election-day failures.

It is true that the results of two county commissioner races were not decided for a week after the election. But that delay was not caused by the elections officials. It resulted from the closeness of the elections and the high number of provisional ballots that had to be counted before the winners could be determined.

Wayne bested most counties by completing its canvass before the state’s deadline. As the end of the week approached, some votes in North Carolina still were out.

The chairman of the Wayne County Board of Elections, Geoff Hulse, has made it a priority to win back credibility for the board, which oversees the county’s elections staff and its work.

Gary Sims, formerly a troubleshooter for the state Board of Elections, was hired as the elections director. Hulse and his fellow board members brought in activists from the two major parties to advise them and to ensure that the steps they implemented would be well received in both parties.

This is thankless work. Hulse and the other two board members, Democrat Chester Beverly and Republican Joe Daughtery, are volunteers, and the hours they spend helping to prepare for the elections and overseeing the operation are countless.

By all accounts, there was consensus that the election was not only efficient but fair. When it was over, both winners and losers praised the elections board and its staff.

Published in Editorials on November 13, 2004 11:36 PM