Politics & Government

Primary leads to long lines and long delays in North Carolina

dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

A record turnout contributed to voting delays around North Carolina on Tuesday, including Mecklenburg County, where the last voter cast a ballot 3 1/2 hours after polls officially closed.

In Mecklenburg, a last-minute crunch of voters was compounded by many of them casting provisional ballots, which take more time to process.

“Everything seemed to be a little slow last night,” Elections Director Michael Dickerson said Wednesday.

Statewide, 2.3 million people voted in Tuesday’s primaries. Although the 35.35 percent turnout was lower than the 36.86 percent in the 2008 primary, the actual number of voters was up by nearly 200,000.

“More voters participated in yesterday’s election than in any prior primary,” said Jackie Hyland, a spokeswoman for the state elections board. “While we are carefully reviewing ways to shorten wait times, we are proud of the work counties did to ensure voters’ voices were heard at the polls.”

It was North Carolina’s first election under new laws involving voter IDs.

A coalition of groups including Democracy North Carolina, Ignite NC, Common Cause and the NAACP fielded over 700 volunteers to monitor key precincts around the state. A spokesman said more than 1,000 calls went into a call center at the University of North Carolina law school.

Many complained of poorly trained election workers, inconsistent application of the new ID law or failure to provide provisional ballots to eligible voters.

“It’s worrisome that under the mild stress of a primary it creates such problems,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina. “And there really has to be major investment in better training, better equipment, better staffing … and helping voters navigate what has become a much more bureaucratic process.”

The delays in reporting results masked some close races in Mecklenburg.

Republican Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville won his race over Tom Davis by 28 votes out of more than 7,400 cast in House District 92. And in District 103, newcomer Rochelle Rivas edged Noah Lieberman by just 10 votes out of 6,460 cast in the Democratic primary.

And the final votes have yet to be counted.

Dickerson said as many as 2,000 absentee ballots are still out. They’re due Friday. And 1,600 provisional ballots have to be checked and, if eligible, counted by Tuesday.

Candidates would then have until Wednesday to ask for a recount.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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