By Dave Russell
The big day is over, but the vote count continues nationally, statewide and here in Jackson County.
Canvass, or the final tally of ballots, is 11 a.m. Friday.
Elections officials are faced with 335 provisional ballots to consider, Director Lisa Lovedahl said.
A provisional ballot is used when precinct workers cannot immediately determine a voter’s eligibility.
“Provisionals allow voters to vote, and then the office staff researches the provisionals from Election Day until canvass during a 10-day period, to verify if the ballot can be legally counted or not,” Lovedahl said. “Then the Board of Elections members will take those recommendations and they will vote on if the provisional ballots are to be approved or not approved.”
Some would require closer scrutiny, she said.
“For the ones that we can’t determine exactly if the ballot is eligible based on what the law says, if there is a grey area, then the board will vote on those,” Lovedahl said.
Determining a percentage of provisional ballots approved as votes from years past is difficult, Lovedahl said.
“You can’t really do that,” she said. “It varies too much. It varies from year to year and it really is based on individual issues. Normally, no more than 50 percent, but it can go down to 10 percent, it can go up to 60 percent.”
In 2016, about 44 percent of provisional ballots cast statewide were counted, state elections officials say.
Reasons ballots might end up in the provisional category could include unregistered voters, or those voting out of precinct, Lovedahl said.
The canvass is open to the public. It will not be available to view online as the board’s meetings to evaluate absentee ballots were. Representatives from the two major parties will attend.
If candidates finish the race with 1 percent or less separating them, there can be a recount.
That scenario would most likely play out in the Jackson County Commissioners District 4 race, Lovedahl said.
In that contest, Democrat Mark Jones, a former commissioner, has 10,374 votes, just nine more than Republican Mark Letson, a political newcomer and co-owner of Cashiers Valley Pharmacy.
The result could come down to the provisional ballots that will be considered in the Nov. 13 canvass.
A candidate must request a recount before 5 p.m. Monday, one business day after Friday’s canvass.
Absentee ballots still flowed in as of Monday afternoon, Lovedahl said. To be counted, they must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3, and received by the Board of Elections no later than Nov. 12.
The elections office had received 75 ballots that came in after Nov. 3.
North Carolina elections officials said in a release that for Election Day voters it might take a few weeks before their “voter history” is updated to reflect their recent vote in voter records available through the State Board of Elections’ Voter Search tool.
The State Board of Elections and county boards of elections are inundated with questions from voters about whether their ballot was counted in the 2020 general election. In almost every single case, the answer will be yes.
County boards of elections must first complete post-election processes.
Voters may confirm the status of their ballot in the following ways through the State Board of Elections’ Voter Search tool: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup.
Ballot status will show up in the “Voter History” section as soon as the county completes the post-election process of assigning voter history. This may take a couple of weeks or longer after the election.
The Jackson County Board of Elections is diligently working to ensure “voter history” is made available to the public as soon as possible after the canvass, Lovedahl said.
The State Board of Elections will meet on Nov. 24 to certify final results.
Statewide, as of Monday morning, about 94,900 voters who requested an absentee by-mail ballot had not yet returned an accepted ballot or voted in person during the early voting period. The number of these ballots ultimately received by county boards of elections and counted will be less than that because some voters cast their ballot in person on Election Day and others likely did not vote at all.
The 40,766 provisional ballots statewide will be researched to determine whether the voter was eligible, and the approved ballots will be reported on the state’s Election Night Results website on Friday.
The statewide race most likely to result in a recount is for chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. Republican Paul Newby, currently an associate justice, leads incumbent Democrat Cheri Beasley by 974 votes as of Wednesday morning.