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Heavy turnout at NC polls, as voters question provisional ballots, ‘inactive status’

Long lines, rainy weather and voting machine malfunctions were being reported in some North Carolina counties on Election Day, as millions of voters made their way to the polls.

Among the counties reporting problems with voting machines were Wake and Cumberland, and state officials blamed humidity for the machines’ inability to read ballots, The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Fayetteville Observer reported. “When ballots cannot be read by tabulators, they are stored securely in ‘emergency bins’ and will be tabulated as soon as possible,” the N&O reported. “All ballots will be counted.” It was unclear how widespread this issue is in the state.

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Another machine with the same malfunction was reported in Forsyth County, and voters were being asked to “file their ballots in an emergency bin,” The Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Heavy voter turnout was creating long lines in some North Carolina cities, including Raleigh and Greensboro, where 100-plus people were standing outside one polling station two hours after it opened, according to The Greensboro News & Record.

TV station WTVD aired footage of a similar line outside one Raleigh polling place, showing it trail out of the parking lot and down the sidewalk.

Google Trends showed surges in searches involving ‘long wait times’ across North Carolina as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. It was a top search in parts of the Triangle including Apex, Holly Springs, Clayton, Knightdale and near Charlotte in Mount Holly and Matthews.

An N&O reader in Cary, Colette Pisarski, said in an email that because school was still in session at her polling place — Carpenter Elementary — “there was a big issue with parking” and “a shortage of volunteers handing out ballots.”

Voting was delayed at a Columbus County precinct in Tabor City “after a worker failed to pick up a box of ballots at the board of elections office,” WWAY reported. Voting hours were extended at that polling place until 9:20 p.m., state board of elections officials said in a news release Tuesday evening.

Voting also was extended until 7:50 p.m. at the Ashbrook High School polling place in Gaston County, the state board of elections said.

A photo of a Real ID poster at a DMV polling place made the rounds on social media Tuesday, with people saying it could cause confusion for voters. A Real ID is not required to vote.

A poll worker was assaulted at a polling site in Winston-Salem on Tuesday morning, police said, according to The Winston-Salem Journal. It was not immediately clear what sparked the confrontation, but the incident did not interrupt voting, the Journal reported.

St. Andrews the Apostle Catholic Church, an Apex polling place, lost power, but a generator was sent to the site and the voting machines were running on battery power, Wake County election officials said in an email to the N&O Tuesday evening. The power was restored about an hour later, and “voting never stopped” while it was out, county spokeswoman Dara Demi said.

In Mecklenburg County, lines were longest in Charlotte’s University City area, where various organizations told students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that they would get free pizza at the polls, Kristin Mavromatis, Mecklenburg County public information manager, told The Charlotte Observer.

Many of the students hadn’t registered to vote, she said. Many were filling out provisional ballots, slowing the lines.

The Mecklenburg County elections board said there was no indication that the offer was a problem. It’s legal to offer free food to voters as long as it doesn’t require supporting a particular candidate or party, Mavromatis said.

Inactive voter status

Another big concern in the state appeared to be questions of voter eligibility, according to Google Trends.

“Inactive voter status” was the most searched question in the Charlotte area, according to Google Trends. It was also the top search in Raleigh, Greenville, Statesville, Winston-Salem and Apex, said the site.

To check your voter status, click here. To find out where your voting precinct is located, check here.

Inactive voters are those who have “not cast a ballot in two straight federal elections and failed to return repeated post cards from election officials seeking to verify voters’ addresses,” according to Fox News.

Such voters have not been “purged,” according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

“Inactive voters are still registered voters,” says the state board’s web site. If your voter registration says “inactive,” you can still vote.

“If an inactive voter presents to vote, the person will be asked to update his or her address with the board of elections,” the site says. “In the event that an inactive voter remains in this status for another two federal election cycles (meaning the county board still has no contact with the voter), then the voter will be removed as a voter in the county.”

Provisional voting

The second most searched question is the state’s policy on provisional voting, which is offered to people who have unresolved eligibility questions.

“Provisional voting is a mechanism by which a citizen is guarantied the opportunity to cast a ballot ... which is held aside pending research into the issue,” says the state board’s web site.

In addition to the voting machine issues in Wake and Forsyth counties, one Columbus County precinct has a pending request that the Board of Elections extend voting at the site by two hours, reported WWAY.

The extension, which will be decided at a 4:30 p.m. meeting, is necessary because the Columbus County Board of Elections didn’t have all the required ballots at the site by the time it opened today, reported the Tabor City Tribune.

The Associated Press is reporting early voting in recent weeks “revealed a wide variety of concerns with voting and registration systems around the country — from machines that changed voter selections to registration forms tossed out because of clerical errors.”

Anyone standing in line by 7:30 p.m. will be able to vote, says the N.C. Board of Elections.

Joe Marusak contributed to this report.

Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5245, @AbbieRBennett
Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs

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