Third of provisional ballots thrown out
BY VIRGINIA BRIDGES for the The Herald-Sun. 09 November 2004
DURHAM About one of every three provisional ballots cast in Durham County were not counted this year, according to local elections officials.
Through a process that ended Tuesday, elections officials approved 1,790 of Durham's 2,820 provisional ballots cast, or 63 percent.
Elections officials still were working on the demographic breakdown of the ballots.
Mike Ashe, director of the Durham County Board of Elections, said more than 1,000 ballots were rejected mainly because there was no record that the people had registered to vote. For a provisional ballot to be approved, the board has to have some evidence that the person had registered or attempted to register to vote prior to the Oct. 8 deadline.
A lot of people told elections workers that they had signed up to vote at community registration drives, Ashe said. "Unfortunately, I believed every one of those, but I never got the card," he said.
And although it is always a concern that people think they are registered but don't get to vote, Ashe said the numbers do not indicate that the system isn't working.
"I wish this was so important that people would have registered early and checked with the Board of Elections," he said.
On the other hand, he pointed out, there were 30,000 newly registered voters in Durham County and 111,685 people voted, which is 25,000 more than have ever voted here before.
Ashe said many of the provisional ballots that were approved were from the nearly 20,000 voter registrations that the Board of Elections received on or just prior to the October deadline.
If an error was found among those applications, like a person failing to sign the registration card, election officials put the card in a pile that could be referred to later when checking provisional ballots. Then, even if the voter didn't turn up on the books, the information would be evidence that the person had tried to register and would qualify their vote, Ashe said.
Also counted were ballots submitted by people who registered at the last minute through the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, he said. But a large number of people who used provisional ballots weren't registered at all, he said, and about 600 to 700 people voted in the wrong precinct.
"I think the system worked absolutely perfectly," Ashe said.
Voting a provisional ballot is "more time and more work on the voter's part, it is more time and work on our part, but it did exactly what it was intended to do," he said.
Final Election Results
According to the Durham County Board of Elections, 111,685 of the county's 152,708 registered voters, or 73.4 percent, cast ballots in this year's election. Of those, 34,398 voted a straight Democratic ticket and 10,902 voted a straight Republican ticket. The Libertarian Party ticket received 214 votes.
Also, Durham County's final results in the presidential and county commissioner races are:
Kerry-Edwards Democratic ticket: 74,524 votes, or 67.88 percent.
Bush-Cheney Republican ticket: 34,615 votes, or 31.53 percent.
Badnarik-Campagna Libertarian ticket: 381 votes, or 0.35 percent.
There also were 268 write-in ballots.
Durham County Commissioners (top five vote-getters were elected)
Becky Heron: 75,576 votes, or 19.12 percent.
Ellen Reckhow: 74,093 votes, or 18.74 percent.
Lewis Cheek: 73,033 votes, or 18.47 percent.
Michael Page: 70,775 votes, or 17.90 percent.
Phil Cousin: 67,451 votes, or 17.06 percent.
Carolina James-Rivera: 34,424 votes, or 8.71 percent.
Did vote count?
Provisional voters who kept the PIN number given to them after they voted can call the State Board of Elections toll-free at (866) 522-4723 to see if their vote was counted. Or they can go online to www.sboe.state.nc.us.
Voters who don't have their PIN numbers can call the Durham County Board of Elections at 560-0700.