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. Jess

    Lol I like Turner's idea, just do it like American Idol! Then the lazy people don't even have to leave the house!

    November 4, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Dave W.

    As A Canadian, I find it hilarious tht Americans are asked to act as observers for elections in countries, such as Zimbabwe and Haitti to make sure they are fair and democratic, but they cannot seem to run their own fairly. You would think after Bush stole the election in 2000 and rigged the one in 2004 you would have learnt a lesson.

    November 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  3. Traci

    Enter in SSN and PIN number given to you when you originally registered to vote (in person) and vote online. Receive confirmation number that vote was received and counted. I still can't believe this country hasn't gone to online voting at least for federal elections. Get rid of electoral college so that votes made actually count for something. Until that happens, there really is no need for me to vote at all as my state traditionally goes opposite of how I vote. I certainly wouldn't stand in line in the rain to cast that useless vote. I hate to sound so negative, but that's pretty much what it amounts to.

    November 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Vinny, Conroe, TX

    Lucky someone was there to point out to the NC folk that they should dry their hands before handling the ballot. The only problem now is quite a few people wrote their choices on the paper towels 😛

    November 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Franklin

    Dont that have like roofs and floor in North Carolena? NC sounds like a fun place – no floors and no roofs. Cant they get something like electing the presidint right?

    November 4, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Bonnie Rose

    To solve all the electronic voting problems, they should have a big jar... you show your id, validate your address, and then request a red bean or a blue bean... throw your bean in the jar, and VOILA, you've voted. No more jammed-up machines!

    November 4, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  7. TOO BAD

    All you RACIST zealots that have been stoked by MCSAME and his PUPPET...maybe you should move to Alaska with your RACIST Sarah Pasty Palin!

    The RP has GONE to HELL...not respectable–just dispicable!!

    November 4, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  8. Karen from Charlottesville

    Hey, whatever it takes so that everyone gets an opportunity to cast a vote.

    November 4, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. carleigh

    Leave North Carolina alone. All voting machines have benefits and drawbacks. Paper ballots ensure a paper trail, but they are sensitive to rain, erase marks, ect. You'll be hard pressed to find flawless voting machines, polling practices, voting machine manufactuers, election officials, ect. anywhere, whether the south or out west or in the northeast.

    Let's drop the 'south is stupid and backword' jokes. They are old and inaccurate, biased and misinformed.

    November 4, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. InTx

    Just how backwoods are they there in that state? Why not wait and give them the ballots when they are INSIDE?

    November 4, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Mark

    Yes, we have roofs on our barns in NC. The problem is that there is a little bit of space between the boards, and that is where the rain gets in. Plus, since it's raining, we have to leave the animals in the barn, so there isn't enough room for all the people.

    November 4, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Jane Burns from NC

    This election process has been so foul. The tone of the Repulicans and the anger generated is not what true democracy is supposed to be about. It actually may be largely the tone that dictates the direction of this election. Many people are disgusted.

    I'm really saddened that failure of the absentee ballot system and other system failures will deny people their right to vote.

    As an independent, real American voting Democratic this time, I surely hope that there never is another election campaign that sinks to the depths that this one has.

    Get out and support Obama today. Don't take anything for granted...there could be a surprise. Vote!

    November 4, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  13. john


    smart enough to actually read an article before we comment on it 🙂

    November 4, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. Amy

    Personally I like Bonnie's suggestion above re: put your red or blue bean in the jar and voila! you have voted!!! Some times I think we make things too complicated for ourselves – go back to the basics of "bean counting" and we'd have no more problems!!

    November 4, 2008 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |

    I quote the following from this feed.
    All you RACIST zealots that have been stoked by MCSAME and his PUPPET…maybe you should move to Alaska with your RACIST Sarah Pasty Palin!

    The RP has GONE to HELL…not respectable–just dispicable!!
    By TOO BAD
    Why do you Americans still tolerate such trash talk?

    November 4, 2008 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. Harold Fredericksburg Va.

    "Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else." ...Will Rogers

    Come on Jason lighten up...even if McCain loses...NC can continue to be the #2 financial center of the US....

    November 4, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. Heather

    To InTX_
    The ballots ARE given to the voters inside, but when you are dripping water because you've been standing out in the rain, the water drips onto the ballot, wetting it. Come on, use those brain cells!

    November 4, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. CC

    This is for MEH, There's nothing wrong with touch screen ballots. They're great! We have them here in Guilford County. When you vote it makes a paper copy to feed into a computer that counts the ballots.

    November 4, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  19. brick

    Everybody is so bitter and uptight...get over it! It'a wonderful day...Barack Obama is going to be Predident!!

    Have a wonderful Day, Rain or Shine!!!

    November 4, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. RaleighRob

    Well, Joey. I guess that since we have RTP and Charlotte in our state, that we also have good educational institutions, since we "no" (know)how to use correct grammar. Joey: "Obviously you all no absolutely nothing about one of the fastest growing populations and economies in the United States."

    November 4, 2008 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. InNC

    We receive our ballots last. People were getting the ballots wet from umbrellas or jackets(It is raining here)

    November 4, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  22. CMND

    they closed the 'Some absentee ballots MIA in NM county' topic so im posting here... regardless of who wins the other side is going to be upset. dont blame this on the dems or gop b/c its not their fault. its the state. same kind of thing is happening in gwinnett, ga. absentee balots were printed wrong and have to be HAND COPIED FROM ONE BALOT TO ANOTHER. good luck getting this right. on top of that, some didnt even receive their balot. this election will be worse than the flordia incident...

    November 4, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. Sara

    My goodness! They DID give them the ballots once they were INside! After waiting OUTside in line to get into the building to vote, people had water dripping off their clothes & hands, which then got on the ballots they were handed when they got INside to vote. Why is this so difficult for some to imagine? I guess common sense isn't so common.

    November 4, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  24. rick

    NC election polls law has "random" id checks that are selected prior to the beginning of the day. If your sticker in the book says check identification then you have to show your id, otherwise you don't. Most voters won't have to show id. I was checked once 3 years ago randomly and I asked why.

    November 4, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. Eric in NC

    I think "TOO BAD" could use a hug.

    November 4, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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