Election Results Certified
Challenged one-stop ballots and the deaths of nine residents who voted early complicated the Friday schedule of the Moore County Board of Elections.
The board met at 9 a.m. to conduct a hearing on 14 challenged ballots, then convened at 11 for the canvass. At that time, however, the canvass was delayed until 3:30 p.m. while the elections staff sifted through huge bags of ballots to remove nine cast by voters who died prior to Nov. 4.
Removal of 11 challenged ballots and the nine invalid ballots because of death did not bring about a substantial change in the vote tally and does not change the outcome of any race, local or national. The canvass completed Friday afternoon certifies the results of the election as official for Moore County.
Elections Director Glenda Clendenin said state law requires that a voter be alive on Election Day. She said none of the ballots of deceased voters were cast with fraudulent intent. Instead, it was a case of an exceptionally large turnout, with about 45 percent of the county's registrants choosing to vote during the two and a half weeks prior to the election day. During that period of one-stop voting, nine voters died, and their ballots cannot be counted.
Of the 45,433 voters who turned out for the general election this year, 29,500 ballots were cast during the early voting period. With interest heightened in this year's election, Moore County had a total registration in excess of 60,000 by Election Day. The turnout represents 75.5 percent of the county's registration, probably the highest in local history.
During the 9 a.m. hearing Friday, challenges to three one-stop absentee ballots were overturned and the votes were counted, but 11 other challenges were sustained and were not counted. The hearing was held in the commissioners' meeting room in the historic courthouse in Carthage.
Only one of the 14 challenged voters attended the hearing to testify on her behalf.
Maria Fernando DiGiovanni admitted that the information provided to election officials about her present address was inaccurate at the time that she voted during the one-stop voting period.
"I did the wrong thing," she said. "I have my driver's license now."
The registration problem developed during the one-stop early- voting period, the only time at which individuals were allowed to register to vote and actually vote on the same day. DiGiovanni said she had waited in line about an hour at the Aberdeen polling place and had not yet corrected the address on her driver's license. That was the address she gave to election officials but was not her legal address upon returning to the county. She had recently moved back to the county from another state.
"We encourage you to re-register," Clendenin advised.
The board voted to sustain the challenge to her ballot. The vote was unanimous but one of the three board members did not vote. Ansol Graham, one of two Democratic Party members of the board, recused himself from the DiGiovanni hearing because he was a witness to the incident at the Aberdeen polling place.
However, Mary M. Pope, who chairs the board, and Susan T. Adams, secretary-treasurer, cast their votes to sustain the challenge. Pope is the other Democrat on the board, and Adams is the Republican.
Because of recent illness, Pope was unable to attend the hearing in person. She participated from her residence by way of telephone conference call and made the motion to sustain the challenge to the DiGiovanni ballot. In her absence, Adams presided.
"Thank you. Have a great day," said DiGiovanni before leaving the hearing.
None of the other voters whose ballots were challenged attended the hearing. Under state law, the board may sustain a challenge if the voter is not present for the hearing.
Help Voters, Not Hinder
The board then reviewed 11 of the remaining challenges, with Clendenin explaining circumstances surrounding each challenge. Two other challenges were resolved prior to the hearing and were overturned.
The third overturned challenge was a case of an error on the part of the Postal Service, and the voter's ballot will be counted.
In the other cases, Clendenin recounted such things as wrong addresses, disconnected telephones and addresses that could not be verified.
Clendenin told of one incident in which she drove to an address on a rural road in a remote area off Youngs Road, but when she arrived, the only residence was a mobile home bearing a house number different from the number on the voter's registration application. The mobile home resident informed her that the challenged voter had moved.
On another occasion, two sheriff's deputies accompanied Clendenin to the residence of a voter whose address was in error and in an area of questionable security.
Asked if a personal follow-up investigation is required in such cases, Clendenin said it is not a requirement, but she likes to make every effort to give qualified people the right to vote.
"We're in the business of helping people to vote, not to hinder them," she said. "We just like to help."
Thirteen of the 14 challenged ballots were cast by residents who registered the same day. The other challenge was the ballot of a person who took the application home, rather than submitting it at the polling place.
The hearing was conducted according to judicial procedures, and the one witness, DiGiovanni, was sworn in by Annette McGraw, a notary with the county attorney's office. County Attorney Misty Leland Randall also attended the hearing.
One representative of the county tax office and other election employees were present to testify but were not needed.
Completes Lengthy Process
The Friday afternoon canvass completes a lengthy process certifying results of the election.
On Monday, the board conducted the legally required audit, which calls for a manual, or "hand to eye," count of ballots from two precincts. The precincts, DHR and Taylortown, were selected by the State Board of Elections. The results showed no change in totals.
The board supervised the counting of 429 provisional ballots Thursday afternoon. Of that number, about 219 ballots were determined to be valid and the votes were added to the grand total from Election Day.
These additions more or less followed the trend of Moore County voting on Nov. 4 and did not change any overall results. In the presidential race, the provisional ballots added 130 votes for Republican John McCain, 88 for Democrat Barack Obama and one for Libertarian Bob Barr.
The canvass closes a chapter in a historic election in which the nation had its first African American presidential candidate -- and the Republican Party nominated its first female for the vice presidency. The resulting excitement garnered new registrations and voter turnout of historic proportions.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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