November 4th, 2008
01:38 PM ET
5 years ago

Paper towels solve NC soggy ballot problem

Voters were in line before sunrise at one North Carolina polling place Tuesday morning.
Voters were in line before sunrise at one North Carolina polling place Tuesday morning.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Rain in parts of North Carolina caused some early problems for voters using optical scanner ballots Tuesday, but a memo about using paper towels seemed to dry up the problem, according to North Carolina officials.

Voters were coming into voting locations early Tuesday morning and getting the paper ballots wet as they handled them, according to Gary Bartlett, Executive Director of the North Carolina Election Board.

"We sent out a memo to the county election boards asking them to hand out paper towels to voters before they were given a ballot," Bartlett said.

Bartlett was not sure how many calls his office received Tuesday, but he said it was very few before he recognized the potential problem and sent out the message.

The problem seemed to subside, Bartlett said, as he saw a drop in the number of calls reporting the wet ballot problem later in the morning.

Optical scanner ballots use a paper ballot that is filled out by voters in pencil and then slid into a machine that reads the ballot.

If the ballot is wet the machine has trouble feeding the paper and it can jam or tear.

Two individual reports of wet ballot problems were reported in Wake County, NC Tuesday, according to election officials.

Wake County covers the area around the state capital, Raleigh.

One wet ballot jammed in a machine, forcing voting officials at the polling location to replace the machine and re-scan the ballot.

A second ballot jammed and was ripped when it was pulled back out of the machine. The individual was allowed to fill out another ballot and the old ballot was cancelled, according to Cherie Poucher, Director of the Wake County Election Board.

One common problem in North Carolina is voters voting a straight ticket ballot.

The ballot is designed to put the vote for president in a different column when voting for a single party. Voters sometimes miss the different column to vote for President.

The ballot has been in use since the late 1960's, but questions by voters often come up, Bartlett said.

Counties were again warned of the problem and told to inform voters if they were going to vote a straight ticket, according to Bartlett.

Wake County handed out flyers to both early voters and voters on Tuesday to remind them of how the ballot works, according to Poucher.

"We have received just a handful of calls about this issue this year," Poucher said.


Filed under: North Carolina • Voter Problems
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Molly

    LOL...how long did it take to figure that one out! :-)

    November 4, 2008 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. 47yo male for McCain

    Don't they have roofs over the ballot machines in NC.

    November 4, 2008 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. CD

    Whatever it takes get those votes in.

    November 4, 2008 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Kevin Ruffin

    Well, I went early enough to beat the rain, however what I did see as a problem going on at the polls, is that no one was being asked to show their ID to prove who they were. I remember distinctly last election, I had to show my ID to get my signature card and ballot, and this year I guess you can walk up and say you are anyone, they read the address back to you off the sticker, and you say correct, and you get a ballot.

    This is very distrubing to me with all the election problems over the years, and there reports of invalid voter registrations.

    This is the 21st century and we still vote like its the B.C. era. Go figure.

    November 4, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. RT

    Yes they do; they don't have a roof over all the people waiting outside hoping to elect Obama

    November 4, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Marinda

    Why doesnt every state use the same form or machine to vote with? This could save alot of questons and problems later on if we all used the same way to vote. Just a thought :)

    November 4, 2008 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Jatwork

    Of course we have roofs over our ballor machines! But when wet people in wet jackets carrying wet umbrellas carry paper ballots, sometimes they get wet!

    November 4, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Turner, GA

    All of these issues are crazy!! In 4 years I think the candidates should have phone numbers so everyone can call in there votes just like American Idol! We an even let Ryan Seacrest announce the winner!

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. JR

    47yo male for McCain, I believe the voters were wet coming in from outside and the water on their hands was messing up the ballots. Thus the paper towels to dry their hands.

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Jay

    It's not news... it's CNN.

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Hurk McGurk

    Don't people have reading comprehension where you're from?

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. tylenol666

    the ballots need to be a fedral Nation wide form all under one system

    this is starting to look embarrasing!

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. in NC

    Yes, they do. That wasn't the problem. They hand you the ballot shortly after you walk in the door and it was raining rather hard here today. So, by handling the ballot with wet hands or a sleeve might drip on the ballot (it is chilly too), then it's getting water on the ballot.

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  14. Matt

    NC FOR OBAMA

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Elise

    Wow. You're serious?

    They were wet from the rain outside. They handled the ballots with their wet hands once they came inside. LTR. (Shouldn't have included that you're voting for McCain when making that post. Fuels the fire.)

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Med

    interesting

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  17. jymsis123

    Do the people in NC vote outside?

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  18. Matt

    the water is on people's hands as they come in

    November 4, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Kat

    The people themselves were wet from waiting in line and when they handled their ballots they got them wet.

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. Lou from CT

    I think the problem was people were coming in from the rain and their hands were still wet. Very innovative solution!

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  21. OBAMA NC - Raleigh

    Yes, we have roofs over the ballt machines. I cannot imagine where this is, since we vote indoors.

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  22. GObama

    Wet voters dripping water from standing outside for hours + handling paper ballots = Wet Ballots.

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Once again low tech leads the way. How novel! How 19th century!

    This just shows what a state this process really is. How about electronic machines like we have here in NV...Don't need paper towels here...

    what a sad commentary.....sounds so third world!.

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. Jason

    It's water dripping off of the voters onto the ballots when the come inside. Yes, NC has no roofs, they have not been invented there yet.

    November 4, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  25. 28yo male for Obama

    Umm... maybe you should read the article before asking stupid questions. "Voters were coming into voting locations early Tuesday morning and getting the paper ballots wet as they handled them."

    November 4, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
1 2 3 4