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County board of elections meets at new headquarters

The members of Alamance County’s board of elections gathered together on Tuesday in their new headquarters at 1128 South Main Street to finalize the results of last week’s primary for Burlington’s city council.

This regularly-scheduled meeting took place a second-floor conference room that retained many of the trappings of the building’s past life as the branch office of an area bank. As they luxuriated in these comparably lavish surroundings, the four board members who attended the confab in person made quick work of the usual formalities that are needed to certify the results of any local election.

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Board of Elections members (from left to right), Bryan Ray, chairman Elaine Berry, and Gary Jackson.

During the course of this meeting, the election board’s members reviewed the nine late-coming absentee ballots that the elections office received since the primary took place on October 10. They also vetted seven provisional ballots that voters had cast on the day of the primary – including two that were submitted by voters who were unable to meet the state’s newly-implemented requirement for voter ID.

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In the end, none of these ballots changed the overall results of the primary, which saw Dejuana Bigelow, current city councilman Bob Ward, Charlie Beasley, and former mayor pro tem Celo Faucette beat out four other contenders for a chance to complete in next month’s general election for a pair of regular seats on the city council.

The board ultimately gave its cursory nod to three of the nine absentee ballots that it considered on Tuesday. These votes were accepted once the county’s elections staff had confirmed that they were properly postmarked by the day of the primary. Six others that bore late postmarks or no postmarks at all were summarily rejected.

The board also accepted five of the seven provisional ballots which were filled out on the day of the primary by voters who didn’t appear on the voter rolls in the precincts where they turned out to vote. Under state law, voters in this predicament can request provisional ballots which are then adjudicated by local elections officials before being added into the final vote count.

Of the five provisional ballots that passed muster with the board, two were submitted by Burlington residents who had simply showed up to vote at the wrong precinct. A third was cast by an individual who had been mistakenly bumped from the registration rolls when another voter with a similar name moved out of the same voting precinct.

“They should be counted,” election worker Karyn Newcomb instructed the board on the fate of this particular ballot, “because it was our mistake.”

Another person whose votes were accepted had cast a provisional ballot last year, only to have it rejected because they had omitted their birth date from the ballot and failed to check the citizenship box. When this same voter filled out another provisional ballot on October 10, they apparently neglected to check the citizenship box once again, although they did fill out their birth date.

This fact was enough to convince the state-level officials whom the elections staff had consulted that the ballot should be counted this time around since their citizenship had, by then, been independently confirmed by the staff.

The fifth voter whose provisional ballot was counted had turned out to vote on October 10 without a state-mandated photo ID. This individual opted to complete an exception form, where they acknowledged that they had previously lost their ID.

The board went on to accept this explanation based on state-level guidance which instructs local officials to sign off on any explanation unless it is demonstrably false information, and the voter fails to convince them otherwise after being given an opportunity to do so.

Of the two provisional voters that the elections board ultimately rejected, one came from a voter who had no record at all of having previously registered. Under state law, this individual’s provisional ballot will serve as their registration form and entitle them to vote when they make their next appearance at the polls.

The seventh and final provisional ballot cast on the day of the primary came from another individual who had failed to produce a valid photo ID at the polls. In this case, the voter claimed to have forgotten their card and opted not to fill out an exemption form.

Instead they filled out a provision ballot and promised to present an acceptable ID at the election’s office by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 16. According to Newcomb, the voter never followed through on this pledge, thereby rendering their provisional ballot null and void.

With these formalities out of the way, the board went on to record the following additions to the initial vote count from the night of the primary:

Charlie Beasley: 2

Dejuana Bigelow: 2

Celo Faucette: 4

Bob Ward: 3

Brandy Whittaker: 1

At 11:00 a.m., the four members who attended the meeting in person were joined by fellow board member Homer Ashby, who tuned in via the Zoom teleconferencing platform due to an unspecified illness. The now-five-member group went on to a state-mandated “canvas,” or review of the vote count, before they voted to certify the primary’s updated results.

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