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December 5, 2020

Board of Elections continues counting absentee ballots, resumes ‘curing’ deficient ones

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Elections met Tuesday to continue counting absentee ballots as it works to resolve the nearly 100 deficient absentee ballots received.

Since Sept. 29, the county board has met in-person each Tuesday to open, count and accept absentee ballots from civilians, military members and citizens overseas. Any members of the public are able to tune in to the virtual meetings. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board adjusted the count of absentee ballots accepted after concluding one envelope didn’t contain a ballot.

It was reported the board would process 532 absentee ballots on Tuesday. Of those, 531 ballots were counted. After searching through all envelopes again, one didn’t contain a ballot and board chair John T. Hudson said that has happened before.

Board member Dave Collins made a motion to adjust the total to 531, but board member George W. Benson opposed the measure, saying all votes should be counted and accounted for.

Rowan County Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins also said the issue of an envelope not containing a ballot has happened before but not while she’s served as director. She added that envelopes are sealed at the beginning of each county board of elections meeting and only opened by board members on camera.

She reminds voters to ensure their ballots are inserted in the appropriate envelope as the board “can’t always help if there’s an envelope without a ballot.”

Also addressed at the meeting was the state’s ballot curing process. About 10,000 deficient absentee ballots across the state had been on hold since Oct. 4 due to pending litigation regarding the witness requirement. Following a memo from the State Board of Elections on Monday, county boards of elections can now contact voters whose absentee ballots contain deficiencies.

New guidance for curing absentee ballots requires county boards to reach out to voters with ballot deficiencies in writing within one business day to inform the voter of the issue and how to correct it. Deficiencies on absentee ballots can include ballots without a witness or assistant signature, an envelope not signed by the voter, signatures in the wrong places and envelopes missing the printed name or address of the witness or assistant.

If a ballot is missing a witness or assistant signature, the board can issue a new ballot to the voter. But more minor issues, such as a missing witness address, can be resolved by the voter returning a signed affidavit.

The state estimates that 10,000 absentee ballots across the state contain deficiencies that require a cure. In Rowan County, 98 absentee ballots have contained deficiencies. McCubbins said those include no witnesses on the ballot or a partially blank envelope.

Additionally, if a ballot contains other deficiencies, the county board will send voters a certification to sign and return to ensure the ballot is counted.

Any absentee cure certification must be received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12. All absentee ballots will also be received up to this time and date as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day on Nov. 3.

As of 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 2.07 million North Carolinians have voted, including 658,084 absentee ballots cast and 1.42 million in-person votes. That amounts to 28% of registered voters in the state.

In Rowan County, 16,819 votes have been cast during early voting as of Tuesday and 7,067 absentee by mail ballots have been accepted. More than 12,000 absentee ballots have been requested, and McCubbins said the board continues to receive requests.

McCubbins said, while it’s not an issue, the lines for curbside voting have been long and have made for long wait times. Elections officials continue to work to expedite the process. But for the most part, voters seem to understand, she said.

Also at the meeting, the board announced a separate enter and exit line at Spencer’s early voting site at the Spencer Municipal Building, located at 600 S. Salisbury Ave. Before early voting began, Benson had cited concern at previous meetings that the space at the Spencer location wouldn’t allow for sufficient social distancing as voters would have to pass by others to exit the building.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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