Making sure it counts

Published 8:39 pm Saturday, August 25, 2007

By Staff
Many Americans consider going to the polls and voting one of their most important rights. Many Americans exercise that right.
Sometimes, a single, small clerical error can result in their ballots being discarded. North Carolina has acted to remedy that problem by implementing Session Law 2007-391. That law was pushed for by Project Vote, the Brennan Center for Justice and the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting.
The new law gets rid of the former “no match, no vote” policy that prevented thousands of North Carolina voters from successfully registering to vote, including voters using the new same-day registration procedure, according to Joyce McCloy, founder of the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting. North Carolina is the latest state to remove this barrier, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Helping people to vote and making sure their votes are counted are important steps in preserving and protecting citizens’ right to vote. The new law was needed. The N.C. General Assembly’s decision to pass the legislation and Gov. Mike Easley’s decision to sign it into law should be applauded.
The law gives voters a second chance to correct errors on voter-registration forms that may have kept them from casting valid votes. Under the former policy, voter-registration forms from citizens could be rejected if even a single letter of their personal information on their registration cards did not match their personal information in Social Security or state motor vehicle data bases.
Under the new law, boards of elections in North Carolina will attempt to notify voters when their registration forms have errors or omissions so voters may correct their forms so they can mark a regular ballot instead of a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are given to voters when there are questions regarding their eligibility to vote. Provisional ballots are counted after Election Day and contingent upon verification of voters’ eligibility to vote.
The General Assembly, Easley and the State Board of Elections deserve recognition for getting rid of a policy that flies in the face of Americans’ right to vote. And they are getting that recognition, deservedly so.
Can one small, clerical error prevent a voter from marking a ballot and having it counted?
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, court documents in a 2006 Washington state case show a woman was kept off voter rolls when the year of her birth was entered into the state’s voter-registration system as 1976 instead of 1975. That’s just not right.
And one vote can make a difference. On May 16, 1668, President Andrew Johnson was saved from being convicted of attempting to undermine Congress. As a result of that vote and another vote 10 days later, which again failed by one vote, Johnson was not removed from office.
One vote does make a difference. Making sure a qualified voter’s ballot is counted helps make that difference.
Thanks to the new law, North Carolina citizens have a new safeguard in place to help ensure their votes will be counted.