Jackson Board of Elections corrects election night error

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“After Election Day, we started a 10-day process to solicit hard work, audits, reconciliations, spot checks, day-to-day counts, lots of different things that we do,” the official said. chairman of the Jackson County Board of Elections, Kirk. Stephens. “Every county in North Carolina follows the same procedure. It’s very detailed. It’s very thorough, to go through and make sure we have the most accurate results possible.

The bottom line? The Jackson County Board of Elections initially counted 523 mail-in ballots on election night. The first step in the audit process that begins the morning after Election Day is to compare the number of people who voted – counted in the voter authorization forms that each person completes before voting – to the number of votes accounts. When the board saw that they had 523 more votes than the number of people who had voted, they immediately knew what mistake had been made.

A total of 14,969 ballots were cast in Jackson County by the end of Election Day on Tuesday, November 8; An additional 136 provisional ballots are under investigation and could be counted on the day of the solicitation and 63 mail-in ballots were received between Election Day and Monday, November 15, the last day for ballots. mail-in ballots could be received. Nothing will be official before the vote on Friday, November 18. Stephens said he expects most of the 136 provisional ballots won’t be allowed to count, but some will.

“We are all well aware that the comebacks from election night are emotional,” Stephens said. “And even though everyone says these are unofficial results, no one really takes this to heart. I know it was moving. So if there are any excuses to be made, I absolutely apologize. I apologize for the confusion. What we do here, quite frankly, is more important than any candidate.

While several members of the public had questions for the council at its meeting on Friday, others thanked the council for their hard work on election night and their efforts to inform the public of the mistake that had been made and how it had been corrected.

“Thanks, guys,” one man said. “On election night, it was a really big ‘yay,’ then ‘whoa.’ You know, it really was, and I think, maybe we should get out some torches and pitchforks. But at the end of the day, I know a lot of you on the board. I’ve known you my whole life. I know you’re honest people and I know there was nothing really fishy. So thank you for your dedication. Thank you for making this meeting possible.

There are two main ways people can vote in US elections: mail-in voting and in-person voting. Any absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day and must be received by the Elections Office within three business days of Election Day. This year, as Friday was Veterans Day, the last day mail-in ballots could be received was Monday, November 14.

According to Stephens, early voting, or one-stop voting, is a form of mail-in voting. In Jackson County, five locations are open for the 17 days of early voting leading up to Election Day.

On polling day, there are 13 ridings where people can vote. Most people can vote using a regular ballot on Election Day; however, if there are concerns about registration, that person may need to vote by provisional ballot.

“On polling day, some people show up to vote and it’s questionable whether or not they’re actually registered to vote. We are obligated and we want to count every vote that can legally be counted. So if there’s a question, we don’t just turn people away. We let them vote on a provisional ballot,” Stephens said. “We will take your ballot, we will seal it in a special envelope. It’s a provisional and then it will come back to the council. During the period after Election Day, staff and the Board of Elections will investigate to see if that person can legally vote in Jackson County.

In the software that electoral boards use to record election night results, there are four administration groups into which ballots are uploaded – mail-in absentee, one-stop voting, Election Day votes, and ballots. provisional votes.

According to Stephens, the Jackson County Board of Elections uploaded results from the five one-stop early voting sites and all mail-in ballots that had already been received by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, so that when Polling stations have closed, there were instant results available for the votes counted so far. As the night wore on, the council also uploaded Election Day votes in county precincts. At the end of the evening, the board found that there were no votes in the mail-in ballot group in the software.

Unbeknownst to staff or the board, these votes hadn’t failed to upload the first time, but for some reason had propagated to the constituencies the votes originated from, rather than to appear in the postal voting section of the software. At the end of the night, when the board and staff saw that the absentee mail voting pool was empty, they uploaded those votes back into the computer system. In doing so, the cumulative totals for the 13 constituencies changed.

“That’s where, in my opinion, the confusion started,” Stephens said. “At that time, we overreported 523 votes. We are still in the process. We can still solve this problem. We overstated those 523 ballots. So what’s the next step? Well, the next step is to start a clean slate, which we did.

After re-entering all available voting data, recording provisional ballots and mail-in votes not yet counted, the Board of Elections was able to present the latest and most accurate results to members of the public during the Friday meeting.

what changed

The only local race that changed once the voting data was reintroduced is the race for county commissioner in District Two between Boyce Dietz and John Smith. Election night results showed Dietz leading Smith with 7,656 votes to 7,621. Data presented at Friday’s meeting shows Smith leading Deitz with 7,450 votes to 7,314. Smith has 50.46% of the vote. vote, Deitz has 49.54%. If the margin of victory remains below 1 percentage point, Deitz would be legally entitled to request a recount.

The margin of victory for some other races that looked tight on election night widened after the excessive number of mail-in ballots was taken into account. Early results showed Republican candidate Mark Letson beating incumbent County Commission Chairman Brian McMahan by just six votes, a difference of just 0.04%.

After the double votes were counted, Friday’s data showed Letson leading McMahan by 7,501 votes to 7,309. While there are still votes to be counted, that puts the candidates apart a difference of percentage point needed for a recount to be called.

Republican candidate for the district’s first county commission seat, Todd Bryson, asked the board of elections whether or not there would be a recount in the race for county commission chairman, a possibility he said he saw it in the local newspapers on election night. , when the margin of victory was less than one percentage point.

“Well, you can’t believe a newspaper,” Stephens said. “It is inappropriate to speak of a recount before the end of canvassing. At this time, the candidate has until 5:00 p.m. the next business day to request a recount.

In the race between incumbent Commissioner Gayle Woody and Todd Bryson, early election night results showed Bryson leading 7,828 to 7,507. Updated results show a larger lead with Bryson winning 7,655 votes to 7,162 for Woody.

Towards the end of the meeting, Stephens noted that although the voting data had been updated in Jackson County, the results on the State Board of Elections website would remain the same until the end of the web. Friday, November 18.

“There’s one other thing I want to mention, and I want you to take away from this meeting, and that is how lucky we are in Jackson County to have the election workers that we have and a stop and early and on Election Day,” Stephens said. . “These are your friends and neighbours, most of them are old people and pensioners. They work 13 hours a day. They arrive between 30 and 60 minutes before the opening of the polling stations to settle down. They stay between 30 and 60 minutes later. So you’re talking realistically about a 15-hour day. They are champions of democracy. We are lucky to have them. »

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