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

Paper towels solve NC soggy ballot problem

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. elaine fischer

    i am noticing coverage on tv nationwide that voters even OBAMO was given something at the end of his vote. some type of ticket when his ballet went into the machine. what is that? is that proof that you voted. i was an early voter and i was NEVER GIVEN ANYTHING EXCEPT A STICKER THAT READ " I VOTED" I HOPE MY VOTE COUNTED?????


    November 4, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  2. elaine fischer


    November 4, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. jymsis123

    they vote outside in NC?

    November 4, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. steve

    The polling stations were built by democrats so they can say the republicans are trying to steal the election. Next thing we will hear is that toilet paper helped solve the problems. Lets get with it. It is neither demo. or repub. doing this. It is just down right poor planning. as far as voting by mail, prove that your ballot got counted!

    November 4, 2008 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. RB

    No, we dont have roofs down here in North Carolina. You must be one of those fancy northerners.

    The issue came in because voters clothes and hands were wet and in turn got the paper ballott wet.

    November 4, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  6. ROVE< BUSH< MCPALIN, limbaugh go away shame on you

    you know who are the ones playing tricks and will do wahtever it takes
    but not THIS TIME



    November 4, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. Caniac

    47yo male for McCain, please read the second paragraph again...

    November 4, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. tulsa

    47yo male for McCain November 4th, 2008 1:41 pm ET
    Don't they have roofs over the ballot machines in NC.
    your ignorance is showing.

    November 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Susan

    Their hands are wet from waiting in line outside, handling umbrellas, etc. It doesn't take much to mess up a paper that gets sucked into a machine.

    November 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. Megan

    Republicans will be buying up all the paper towels so there will be none left...its their only chance!

    November 4, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. Article Reader

    Don't you read the articles before commenting? They're getting wet as they're being handled by wet people who have just come in out of the rain. It's not raining indoors where the machines are.

    November 4, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    The problem was with people with wet hands, coming in from the rain, handling the paper ballot.

    November 4, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Joey

    Jason, 47yo male for McCain and everyone else cracking jokes about NC – They haven't invented roofs in NC yet? That's clever, really. That's why Charlotte is the #2 financial center of the US behind NYC. That's why the research triangle in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill is considered one of the best places in the US to live. Obviously you all no absolutely nothing about one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the United States.

    November 4, 2008 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Jason for Obama

    The ballot machines aren't the problem. The article says that voters' wet hands from the rain caused wet ballots.

    November 4, 2008 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Meh

    Steve in Las Vegas> At least w. paper ballots there is a paper trail. I would NEVER use a touch-screen machine.

    November 4, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. Elle in Raleigh, NC

    It rained so hard here in Raleigh, early this morning, that with umbrellas, wet rain coats etc, people were just wet going into the polling places from their cars etc. If, under those circumstances, someone hands you a paper ballot to complete, there is a chance it will get wet. It may be raining, but North Carolina is voting in record numbers!

    November 4, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. ben

    the people come in wet & need their hands dry to handle the ballots. duh

    November 4, 2008 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Tim

    Yeah, sounds good, lets use electronic machines so when there is a problem with them there will be no record of any votes. At least we have a back of system in NC.

    November 4, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. David

    Do you people seriously think we vote outside in NC? Come on you guys, use a little logic, just because we are in the south doesn't mean we're idiots...

    November 4, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Former PUMA

    You know, I am tired of all the bashing. these people should be commended for standing outside in line in the rain so that their vote can count. We can joke all we want, but the simple fact is the voting stations were so crowded people stood outside in the wind and rain. This is a good thing. Make fun of NC all you want, I live here and I was happy to see so many people standing in line outside. Luckily I voted last week.

    November 4, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. john

    The ballot in NC is really straight forward. when i was handed my ballot, I was also handed a slip of paper stating that you would still have to vote for president seperately even if you voted straight party. It is also written on the ballot in big bold letters with step by step instructions, there is nothing confusing about it.

    John from Raleigh, NC

    November 4, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Andreas

    lol – they need a memo how to use a towel. Great...

    November 4, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. jrb2

    No, jymsis123, just like our plumbing, we vote indoors. Please read the article a little closer next time. Its raining outside but "Voters were coming into voting locations early Tuesday morning and getting the paper ballots wet as they handled them"

    Go Obama

    November 4, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Bud from NC (go Mac)

    The voting is inside. We have the plumbing in there too now 🙂 It was wet hands and coats causing the issue.

    In this area of NC we use touch screen voting. Every voter in my polling site was notified that a straight party vote did not apply to the big race. I was impressed that they went to that effort, and things were moving very smoothly.

    And to the young soldier who drove cross-state to vote in uniform in his home district... Thank You. It does not matter how you voted, I was insprired in seeing that level of effort.

    November 4, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. vinnie799

    Are there republican ' issues' in north Carolina like there were in Florida a few years agao? hmmmm.... Ya just got to wonder.

    November 4, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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