Voting “going smoothly so far” as some voters confused about voting outside of precinct

Moss Brennan, Reporter

Election Day morning saw some voters confused about voting outside of their precinct or voting if they were not registered in Watauga County.

“If they have not moved, they have two options,” said Matt Snyder, Watauga County director of elections. “They can go to their correct precinct or they can stay where they are in voter provisional ballot.”

If a voter shows up at the wrong precinct to vote — which happened frequently during the March primary — they can vote with a provisional ballot.

Voters use provisional ballots when questions arise about a voter’s qualification to vote, the voter’s eligibility to vote in a given election or the voter’s eligibility to vote a specific ballot style.

All provisional ballots are returned to the county board of elections, where staff have 10 days to understand why a voter used a provisional ballot and whether it is valid. Then, the staff provides the results of the investigations to the county board of elections.

The board will inform the voter if there are additional steps that need to take place to approve a ballot. If the provisional ballot is approved, the ballot is removed from its sealed envelope and counted.

Election results are not finalized until all eligible provisional ballots are counted. During the March primary, Snyder said about half of the provisional ballots were counted while the other half weren’t.

Snyder said voters need to be careful if they know they are not registered in the county, but still use a provisional ballot.

“(Voters) need to look at the document they’re signing because the document they’re signing says they believe they are registered to vote in Watauga County,” Snyder said. “If they know they’re not (registered), I don’t want them to create problems for themselves.”

Snyder said voters should not vote in Watauga County if they know they are not registered to vote in the county.

Snyder said the board of elections expects normal turnout today, which, when included with the 27,662 early and absentee votes, would mean record turnout.

“We want to encourage everybody to come out and vote. It’s a very beautiful day,” Snyder said. “It’s America’s birthday to celebrate freedom and democracy. And we want a great participation rate. Voters that might have any questions can always call the board of elections at 828-265-8061.”

Michael Behrent, the newly appointed chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, said he is impressed with the professionalism of the board of elections staff and very grateful for the commitment and effort by the volunteer poll workers.

“The voting process is going smoothly so far,” Behrent said. “We are working hard to ensure all voters can exercise their right to vote.”

Here are the full reasons for using a provisional ballot from the North Carolina State Board of Elections:

  • No record of registration – A voter’s record of registration cannot be found in the voter registration list at the time the voter presents to vote at the voting place.
  • Unreported move – A voter provides an address different from the voter’s registered address, and the voter indicates that the move to the new address occurred 30 or more days before Election Day.
  • Previously removed – A voter was previously registered in the county but the registration was cancelled. A voter’s registration may be canceled for a number of reasons (moved within state; moved to another state; felony conviction; removed due to list maintenance; successful voter challenge; deceased, etc.).
  • No acceptable ID – A voter does not present acceptable identification under the Help America Vote Act.
  • Unrecognized address – An election official is unable to locate a voter’s address in the county’s street lookup files.
  • Incorrect precinct – This provisional voting reason is used when a voter requests to vote at a polling place on Election Day that is not the voter’s proper precinct. The voter’s proper precinct is the precinct assigned to the voter based on residential address 30 or more days before Election Day.
  • Incorrect party – During a partisan primary, a voter insists on voting a ballot for a political party that the voter is not affiliated with.
  • Voter already voted – A voter’s record indicates that the voter has already cast a ballot in the election.
  • Jurisdiction dispute – A voter presents to vote and has no eligible ballot style or the voter requests to vote in a contest not in the voter’s assigned voting district based on his or her legal voting residence.
  • Voted during extended hours – The hours for voting are extended by the State Board of Elections or a court order. Voters who cast a ballot during extended hours must vote a provisional ballot.