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%.”