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Some provisional and absentee ballots yet to be counted in Chapel Hill municipal elections


DTH Photo Illustration. 

In Orange County, 61 provisional ballots were cast on Election Day, and two provisional ballots were cast during early voting. Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections, said 61 of the 63 total provisional ballots were cast in Chapel Hill.

The ballots are yet to be officially counted and incorporated into election results.

In North Carolina, provisional ballots can be cast by a voter if their eligibility is not confirmed at the time that they vote. 

Voters may have to cast provisional ballots due to reasons such as voter registration or address discrepancies, lack of acceptable ID, voting in the incorrect precinct or other questions of eligibility.

In the unofficial results for Chapel Hill Town Council, there is a 16-vote difference between the fourth place candidate, Elizabeth Sharp and fifth-place candidate, Renuka Soll.

Sharp and Soll ran on a slate with mayoral candidate Adam Searing.

Cohen said these 63 provisional ballots, as well as the 59 absentee ballots that have so far been received and any others received in Chapel Hill by Nov. 13, will be counted on Nov. 16, and the results will be finalized on Nov. 17. 

“With my experience handling provisional ballots in Wake County and other places and looking at what percentage of various categories were approved in the past — I’m going to predict that 32 of the 61 will eventually be counted,” he said.

According to state law, every citizen who seeks to vote can cast a provisional ballot. No voter can be turned away from polls without being given the option to cast a provisional ballot.

Once cast, provisional ballots are set aside while election officials research the voter’s qualifications to vote, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections website.

If the voter is found to be eligible to vote in the election, their vote will be counted with the other ballots in that election. If they are found to be ineligible to vote, their ballot will remain unopened and uncounted. Official election results include all provisional ballots cast by qualified voters.

“We research every provisional ballot to see if we can find an attempt for the voter to register or that the voter is eligible, and then we present our findings to the Board of Elections — that's our five member board who ultimately make the decision of whether or not to tabulate a provisional ballot,” Rachel Raper, the director of elections for Orange County, said.

Raper said the provisional process is important because every ballot matters.

“Sometimes we do find out a voter did make an attempt to register to vote, and so that allows the voter the opportunity to still participate in an election even though their eligibility could not be confirmed when they presented,” she said.

Cohen said that even if all of the voters who cast the votes that are likely to be counted voted for mayoral candidate Adam Searing’s slate, it may not affect the margin between Sharp and Soll. 

“You can see how close the votes were for the various candidates for one slate versus the other, like the top three were on a slate with Jess Anderson, and they all have within a couple 100 votes of each other,” Cohen said.

He also said, because Sharp and Soll were running on the same slate, it is unlikely that the provisional ballots nor the absentee ballots for Chapel Hill will have a major impact on the final election results.

@DTHCityState |

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