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Ballot re-check in N.C. county finds 11 double votes, 18 wrongfully rejected ballots

Ballot re-check in N.C. county finds 11 double votes, 18 wrongfully rejected ballots

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Forsyth County, N.C., election officials revised the county's vote totals in an election canvass do-over on Monday, after election officials discovered 11 cases of voters voting twice and 18 valid ballots among a batch of provisional ballots that had been rejected earlier.

The vote-total revisions are independent of a recount that is also in progress in the close contest for chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. That recount will be finished here and across the state on Tuesday.

Tim Tsujii, the director of elections, told the Forsyth County Board of Elections during the special meeting on Monday that some of the wrongfully-rejected provisional ballots were among those that the campaign of Democratic N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley had unsuccessfully sought to get counted last week.

But Tsujii said that once it was determined that there were provisional ballots that should have been counted, the elections staff re-checked all of the hundreds of rejected provisional ballots, not just the ones identified by the Beasley campaign.

Tsujii said the cases of double voting were discovered on Sunday as workers tried to finalize voting history records. 

That check found that 11 voters had voted twice: In 10 cases, the voter had both voted in person and had turned in an absentee ballot.

In the other case, a voter had voted in person and had also cast a provisional ballot. Voters are offered the chance to vote provisionally when election workers can't determine whether someone is properly registered to vote.

Because ballots cast on election day can't be retrieved, the Forsyth County Board of Elections voted to cancel the 10 absentee ballots and the provisional one.

In addition to the statewide recount, the Beasley campaign has filed election protests all over the state. The incumbent chief justice trailed Republican Associate Justice Paul Newby by a little more than 400 votes on Election Day. 

In Forsyth County, the Beasley campaign last week filed an election protest to challenge the rejection of 65 provisional ballots that the campaign says should have possibly been counted, and another 22 absentee ballots the campaign says may have been wrongfully rejected also.

In a 3-2 vote last Friday, the county elections board turned down the Beasley protest effort here. 

With 11 ballots subtracted from the totals and 18 added on Monday, the needle didn't budge much on the Beasley-Newby contest in Forsyth County. The revised numbers found that Beasley improved her margin by only one vote in Forsyth, although both candidates picked up a handful of votes. 

The re-canvass on Monday left Beasley with 111,911 votes in Forsyth, compared to 84,774 for Newby. 

On Monday, Tsujii said that discrepancies in the spelling of a name or confusion with a similar name had caused staffers to initially reject many of the 18 rejected provisional ballots.

Three of the previously-rejected provisional ballots had another problem: They were not signed by the voter, as required. On a 3-2 votes that split along party lines, the three Democratic members of the elections board voted to accept the counting of the three ballots.

Meanwhile, the names of the 11 people who voted twice will be forwarded to the state elections board. It is a felony to intentionally vote more than one time in an election. The state board and district attorneys are authorized to investigate such cases.

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