Letter: How is provisional voting handled in Buncombe?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

My wife and I went to vote [March 3], and as usual, we showed up at our polling place before the doors opened. We like to be first in line, but this morning we were fourth and fifth. Once voting started, we noticed that a young gentleman in front of us seemed to be having some trouble. When I went up to give my name and address, I was standing next to him. I was not trying to eavesdrop, but I could not help but overhear the conversation.

He was being told that he had already voted, and he was saying that he had not. The poll worker then called a help desk to see how to handle the situation. I voted and, on the way out, heard a poll worker telling the young man that he would have to fill out a provisional ballot. The last thing I heard was the young man asking, “Is this going to happen every time?”

My wife and I left the polling place and began to discuss what we had both just seen. We had no problem ourselves, but out of this discussion arose a troubling question. If there had indeed been a ballot cast in this young man’s name, which ballot would be counted? Would they count the original, the provisional, both or neither? I am not alleging any sort of wrongdoing. I certainly have no idea why the man was listed as having already voted.

I am sure that there are a pretty good number of election volunteers and officials that read Mountain Xpress. I would just like to know how often this sort of thing happens and how is it handled when it does happen.

— David Greene

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Buncombe County Elections Director Corinne M. Duncan with a summary of the letter writer’s points, and she provided the following response: “Provisional voting is designed for cases just like this. It is fail-safe voting, reserved for situations where there is a question about a voter’s eligibility. Though a small percentage, only about 1% of total votes cast, all provisionals are thoroughly researched. This research is one of Election Services’ most time-intensive duties and an important one. Fair elections are integral to strong community. Multiple audits are conducted each election throughout the voting period to ensure integrity. Audits and the research into provisional votes are careful investigations aimed to ensure each person casts their vote and their vote only.”

Additionally, Duncan included these statistics on the percentage of provisional votes cast in recent elections: “2020 Primary: 587 provisionals cast; 82,455 total votes; 0.71%. 2016 Primary: 1,096 provisionals cast; 69,071 total votes; 1.59%. 2012 Primary: 771 provisionals cast; 70,446 total votes; 1.09%. 2008 Primary: 836 provisionals cast; 63,014 total votes; 1.33%.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.