Voting complaints increase this election cycle

Officials spending time debunking rumors on when and how to vote

abaird@newsobserver.comOctober 31, 2012 

  • Here’s what you need to know about voting • If you want to vote in this election and haven’t registered yet, you must go to a one-stop early voting site in your county of residence no later than Saturday. A variety of false claims reported to the state Board of Elections suggest that someone is telling people they can register and vote on Election Day. Anyone concerned about their registration status can double-check on the state’s website ( Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections said that all registration requests submitted by mail or to counties have been received by the state and processed, so if the website shows you as “not registered” for any reason, you should head to an early-voting site before time runs out. • You will need an ID that shows your name and current address – such as your driver’s license, a utility bill, bank statement or hunting license – to register to vote. • Most voters will not need to show any form of identification to vote, and no one will need a photo ID. The ongoing battle over proposals to require photo ID in order to vote has created confusion. • Absentee ballots cast by mail or at one-stop early voting sites are the first to be counted. Bartlett said the perennial myth that absentee ballots aren’t counted unless a race ends up being too close to call through votes cast on Election Day has again surfaced. He said the truth is absentee ballots are processed well ahead of time, then put under lock and key until counting starts on Election Day. When the first batch of results are announced at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, most will be absentee results, he said. • If you think your voting machine has caused you to vote wrong, you can alert an election worker to help you correct the problem. At a few early voting sites in Guilford County, voters who tried to select Mitt Romney saw Barack Obama show up as selected on the screen. Election officials said some of the machines were in need of re-calibration, and some of the voters struggled to use the machines properly. When voting machines are not calibrated accurately, it’s possible for a voter’s choices to get flipped around. People who tend to struggle with the machines are either too short or too tall to properly see the candidate they are selecting through the screen’s angled glass – or they have shaky hands or an unfamiliarity with touch screen devices, which can also be preempted with the help of a poll worker.

Allegations of voter fraud in North Carolina began long before voting started in North Carolina.

Now, after two weeks of early voting, there have been almost daily complaints about intimidation, aggressive campaigning and attempts to misinform voters.

While every presidential election has its share of discord, State Elections director Gary Bartlett said long lines and partisan tensions have led to an increased number of complaints to his office and to county election officials.“There’s a lot going on at one-stop sites that we just haven’t seen until Election Day in the past,” he said.

Election officials are spending much of their time debunking rumors: Republicans vote on Tuesday and Democrats on Wednesday (everyone votes on Nov. 6); and that people can register to vote – and even vote – by phone (not true).

Officials have also heard – but not substantiated – that some groups are carrying out voter registration drives then dumping registrations likely to help political opponents.

The most common complaint is that campaigners are being too aggressive in trying to win support of voters. Some campaign workers have gotten in the habit of going inside the “no campaigning” zones to work their persuasive charms. State law requires a 25- to 50-foot buffer zone at all voting sites.

In Wake County, a poll worker at an early voting site tried to keep a campaigner back, and was grabbed by the wrist with enough force to cause swelling, said Cherie Poucher, Wake County election director.

“He said he was trying to shake her hand, but he evidently grabbed her wrist hard, and we had to have it checked out,” Poucher said. “Thank God it wasn’t broken, but people need a reminder to be respectful and to follow the rules.”

And according to news reports, police were called to intervene between competing campaigns at one Durham early voting site.

The complaints come as more than 1.9 million people have voted in a heated presidential election. And they follow on the heels of allegations earlier this year that the names of dead people were still on the voter registration rolls. The state board investigated and downplayed concerns over voter fraud.

Baird: 919-829-4696

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