Ballot canvass delayed until Wednesday
Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The Beaufort County Board of Elections’ canvass of ballots for the Nov. 8 general election is delayed again.
The board was scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday to canvass, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections, during an emergency meeting that began at 4 p.m. Sunday, board members scheduled a meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday to determine uniform guidelines for county boards of elections to follow in pending election protests.
As a result of the state board’s actions, the Beaufort County elections board has set the canvass meeting for noon Wednesday. “The County Board will await guidance from the State Board of Elections at the conclusion of the State Board meeting,” wrote Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, in an email. As for the county board’s agenda for today’s meeting, Hopkins wrote changes could occur concerning the canvass and protest hearing after instruction is received by the state board.
On Oct. 27, a federal judge issued the ruling as the result of a lawsuit regarding people who said they registered at a N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office but did not appear on voter rolls when they went to the polls. Those people were allowed to cast provisional ballots. County boards of elections have been waiting for the North Carolina State Board of Elections to let them know which provisional ballots must be counted among those marked by voters whose names do not show up on voters rolls but claim to have registered or changed their addresses through DMV or offices that provide public assistance.
The judge’s order requires such votes be counted, unless a voter filled out a “declination” form at a DMV office, indicating that voter’s decision not to register to vote.
In Beaufort County, 38 such provisional ballots will be dealt with today, after the state board provides guidance on which ballots to approve and be added to vote totals.
Meanwhile, Joseph Knox, a Beaufort County resident and a Republican, filed an election protest with the county board. Knox alleges that three people who voted in the election are convicted felons who have not had their right to vote restored. According to the protest, Knox said a review of a N.C. Department of Correction database shows the three people might have illegally voted. The protest lists the three people as James E. Williams, Sylvester Dunn Ore and Cecil Bradford Walker.
“The Beaufort County Board of Elections must invalidate all ballots for any office whatsoever deemed to be cast by person adjudged to be guilty of a felony in violation of state law, as set forth in sections 5 and 7, above,” wrote Knox in answer to a question regarding what he wants the board to do to resolve the protest.
Hopkins said such protests are rare in Beaufort County. “All protests are about ineligible voters, but not specific ineligible voters with a request to remove the ballots,” she said.
Today, the board plans to conduct a preliminary hearing on the protest, followed by consideration of court-ordered provisional ballots and conducting the canvass.
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has filed a recount request with the state board. Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general, leads McCrory in the gubernatorial race by a little more than 6,000 votes. Under state law, any candidate who finishes less than 10,000 votes behind another candidate in a statewide race may request a recount.
Some of McCrory’s critics, such as Democracy North Carolina, contend his campaign team is trying to delay certification of the election results until the North Carolina General Assembly convenes in January and having the Republican-controlled General Assembly choose the next governor. There is speculation that the delayed counting of some votes in Durham County could trigger the rare occurrence of the General Assembly intervening in contest elections involving Council of State contests and state legislators.