11/08/04 — Wayne's vote count hits delay

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Wayne's vote count hits delay

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on November 8, 2004 2:00 PM

The Wayne County Board of Elections is facing some early morning work to finish the count from Tuesday's election and decide two county commissioner races.

The Elections Board had expected to begin ruling this morning on 2,424 provisional ballots. The elections staff worked through the weekend and had nearly completed its research before the 9 a.m. meeting.

But data could not be verified over the weekend with either the State Board of Elections or the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, Elections Director Gary Sims said. That caused a backlog that needed to be cleared today.

The board recessed its meeting until 3 p.m. today, but Sims said the board may need to meet as early as 3 a.m. Tuesday to be able to run all the provisional ballots through a tabulator.

Board member Joe Daughtery asked Sims, "You said that tongue-in-cheek, right -- three o'clock in the morning?"

"We need to get an early start," Sims said.

State law requires the local boards of election to hold their canvasses at 11 a.m. Tuesday so statewide results can be made official in the afternoon. Three offices -- state auditor, agriculture commissioner and superintendent of public schools -- could still be determined by provisional ballots.

Two Wayne County commissioner seats still need to be decided. Before the provisionals are added, Atlas Price leads Hal Keck by 159 votes for the at-large seat, and Roland "Bud" Gray has a 79-vote margin over Ed Wharton in District 5.

Around 2,000 of the ballots involve people who simply did not notify the Board of Elections of address changes before Election Day, Sims said. They were given the correct ballots to use with their new addresses.

Sims wanted to run a final check to make sure that none of these people went to their old precincts and voted a second time Nov. 2. Barring that, the board will be asked to approve these ballots. Following that, they will be run through the tabulator.

The board will likely be asked to reject another 300 ballots, Sims said. These were filled out by people who had no history of being registered in Wayne County.

However, the elections staff still needs to check with the DMV to determine if any registrations were mistakenly sent to the wrong county.

County Elections Chairman Geoff Hulse added, "In a nutshell, we're trying to give everyone who voted provisionally the benefit of the doubt as to whether their vote will count."

The final group of ballots will need to be partially counted. These are people who used the wrong ballot. Their votes for president, governor and state races will be valid, but the board may need to strike votes outside state or local districts.

People who voted provisionally received personal identification numbers. On Wednesday or later, they will be able to call the State Board of Elections at 1-866-522-4723 and, using the personal identification numbers, find out if their votes were counted.

If people have lost their PINs, they can stop by the Wayne County Board of Elections on Wednesday or later to find out.