Rumors about voting—and making sure your vote counts—have abounded in the run-up to the 2008 general election. To help sort fact from fiction, Xpress solicited readers’ questions about the local voting process and posed them to Buncombe County Director of Elections Trena Parker, whose answers are given below.
Is early voting available on weekends?
Yes. Early voting is offered Monday through Saturday at 15 locations around the county. To check hours and locations, see the Board of Elections Web site: www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/election.
What happens to early voting ballots? Where are they kept, is it secure, and how can we be sure they’re actually included in Election Day totals and not just “misplaced”?
Early voting ballots are kept in locked, fireproof cabinets in a secure location. Both major parties are represented when ballots are handled. All data from all scanners at all early voting sites are collected and counted. Election workers continually audit to make sure that the number of ballots scanned and the number of ballots issued match.
What happens on Election Day if people are still in line hours after the polls’ official closing time? Do they still get to vote? Are those votes counted?
The general statutes of North Carolina do allow the courts to extend voting hours if necessary. Even without that extension, election workers will take the names of all those in line at 7:30 and process those voters.
As a first-time voter, what identification do I bring to register?
If you are already properly registered, you do not need to bring identification with you. If you are not, you will need to register and vote during the early voting program, and you must prove that you live in Buncombe County. Acceptable identification documents include: N.C. driver’s license; utility bill or government-agency document (passport, hunting/fishing license, vehicle registration) with name and current address; student photo ID with school document showing name and current address; paycheck/stub from employer (or W-2 statement); birth certificate. For a complete list, go to this Web page: www.sboe.state.nc.us/content.aspx?ID=32.
Can we vote early in any county?
All counties conduct one-stop (or early) voting. The number of sites varies. You can find this information on the State Board of Elections Web site: www.sboe.state.nc.us.
I saw some information that advised voters to fill in each circle on the ballot for each candidate as opposed to just filling in the “straight party ticket” circle. Supposedly, this will ensure that each vote for each office is properly counted by the machine.
Instructions are included on every ballot. They clearly address what a voter should do if voting for candidates individually, as well as how to vote a straight party ticket, and what to do if you want to crossover vote in the single and/or multiseat race. Note: A straight party ballot does not register votes for president, vice president, unaffiliated candidates or nonpartisan offices; these must be marked separately.
Hey, I wish I could vote: I pay federal taxes, was born in N.C., live in the Virgin Islands … but can’t vote for president.
Voters who live abroad may use their last stateside address to request a ballot.
Is it true that if you cast a provisional ballot, you have only a one-in-three chance that it will be counted? Should you demand that your registration be adjudicated on the spot? What ID would you need in this case?
Provisional ballots are provided to everyone whose registration is in question. They are brought back to the Elections office, where the staff works diligently to research every situation. Once the research is done, the staff makes recommendations to the Elections Board. The bipartisan Elections Board rules on all provisional ballots on Canvass Day, and all provisional ballots that can be counted are counted. Alert voters who do cast a provisional ballot need to be thorough when completing their forms and be absolutely certain to seal the ballot inside the envelope provided.
For more information, contact the Buncombe County Board of Elections, 250-4200 (see Web address above) or the State Board of Elections: (919) 733-7173, (866) 522-4723 or www.sboe.state.nc.us. Another resource is the 2008 Election Connection (www.2008electionconnection.com), a project of Democracy North Carolina. Based in Durham, N.C., the nonpartisan, nonprofit group maintains a toll-free number to report problems with voting: 1-888-OUR-VOTE.