Record Turnout, Problems Few
The 25 polling places are closed and voting booths folded away, but work continues at a frantic pace at the Moore County elections office.
In the wake of the historic 75.53 percent voter turnout, county election officials are still at work wrapping up details and preparing for the canvass on Friday, Nov. 14, when the results become official. The canvass will begin at 11 a.m.
"It's absolutely wonderful that so many of our citizens were interested in voting this year," Elections Director Glenda Clendenin said Thursday. "We were prepared for a 100 percent turnout, but we are delighted that such a large number did come to the polls."
All but 434 provisional ballots have been counted, and this task is scheduled for Board of Elections attention at 3 p.m. next Thursday. This process involves examination of each individual voter to determine if that person was legally qualified to vote in Moore County in the general election. The ballots cast by those determined to be authorized to vote will then be counted.
Provisional ballots are issued to voters whose registration cannot be verified on Election Day.
The mandatory audit of a couple of precincts will be conducted at 2:30 p.m. Monday. As of Thursday morning, the State Board of Elections had not advised the Moore County office as to which precincts would be designated for the audit, also known as the manual "hand-to-eye" count. The audit was added to the election count process in legislation adopted several years ago when North Carolina changed its balloting procedures to assure a paper ballot back-up for all elections.
More than half of the voters cast their ballots as absentees, most during the early one-stop voting period prior to election day.
A breakdown of the 29,500 absentee ballots shows that in the presidential race, 12,772 votes were cast for Obama and Biden, 16,259 for McCain-Palin, and 153 for Barr-Root (Libertarians). There were 62 write-ins, and 243 voters did not mark a choice for president. Eleven people over-voted, with the result that their votes were not counted.
The 243 who did not vote for president failed to do so either because they were unaware they must mark ballots separately for president if voting a straight party ticket or because of "none of the above" dissatisfaction with their choices.
Election officials have no way of knowing the voters' reasons. However, each voter received a notice at the polling place advising that everyone voting a straight party ticket was required to vote separately for president in order for the presidential choice to be counted.
Clendenin said Election Day went smoothly all day Tuesday.
Polls stayed busy throughout the 13-hour voting day, but long lines did not develop, as was the case at some early polling places during the one-stop period.
Two tabulators malfunctioned early in the day, apparently because of rainy conditions causing voters to transfer moisture from wet hands to the ballots, making the ballots too moist for the tabulators to accept. Clendenin said the ballots were placed in an emergency bin that was locked and opened later in the day, when the ballots had dried out. They were fed into the tabulator at that time and all went through just fine.
Voters whose wet ballots were delayed in this fashion were invited to return later in the day to make sure their ballots were counted. Clendenin said a few voters did just that.
Apparently Moore County was not the only county experiencing this problem on the rainy day. Clendenin said she received an e-mail message from the state office with advice on how to handle the situation.
Clendenin said that a few of the in-person same-day registration ballots were returned and could not be counted. A few of those voters are challenging the decision not to count those ballots. She said these did not appear to be cases of people attempting to vote twice. Instead, it is likely that the voters had moved and not reported the change of address and thought they would be able to vote just the same.
"No, we do not suspect fraud in these cases," she said.
Fewer than a dozen ballots were returned because of inaccurate registration.
Early Voting Breakdown
A breakdown of precinct by precinct results from the heavy one-stop voting period will not be available until Tuesday. Clendenin said all were read by tabulators but a separation of the early voting results from the election day votes, on a precinct basis, is a long, involved process. This breakdown has been requested by political activists seeking a more closely defined analysis of voting trends.
Clendenin said that most of the counting details should be behind the Moore County Board of Elections by canvass time at 11 a.m. next Friday. In addition to signing paper work, the three board members will be required to hear challenges from the individuals whose in-person registration same-day voting ballots were returned because of address glitches.
By the time Election Day rolled around, Moore County's registration books contained 60,150 names. Of that total, 45,433 ballots, including the 29,500 absentees, were cast in this year's general election. About 200 names were added to the books during the one-stop voting period when same-day registration and voting were allowed.
To accommodate the growing number of early voters, the Board of Elections operated three one-stop polling places during two and half weeks prior to the election. Voting was carried out at the Agricultural Center on Pinehurst Avenue across the street from the elections office almost on a full-time basis. Different hours were maintained at two other sites, the new Aberdeen recreation building on US 1 in the Aberdeen Lake Park complex and the Old West End School Gym on N.C. 211 in West End.
Voting was also allowed on two Saturdays.
On the final Friday before the election, counties were offered the option to keep polling places open an additional four hours to accommodate the large number of people interested in voting early. Upon the request of one board member, Ansol Graham, the Moore County Board of Elections did keep all three early polling places open until 5 p.m. Saturday.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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