By Harley Nefe
The Watauga County Board of Elections met Monday at 5 p.m. and worked into the night to review and approve absentee by mail ballots that they received.
The envelopes, known as supplemental absentee ballots, that board members reviewed Nov. 9 were those that came in after the pre-election date cut off of Nov. 2 and were received by Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.
Nov. 6 is the historic deadline for absentee by mail after Election Day. However, for the 2020 Election in North Carolina, the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots is Thursday, Nov. 12. This date comes right before the county canvass on Nov. 13 at 11 a.m.
The Watauga County Board of Elections approved 224 ballots to be counted.
Members determined postmarks to see if they met the requirement of being postmarked by 5 p.m. on Election Day.
There were a couple of envelopes that were postmarked after Election Day and could not be accepted. Members also had questions on a few other supplemental absentee ballots that will be researched and reviewed again on their meeting Thursday.
Also during the meeting, Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder provided an update about recounting ballots.
After each election, the state manually selects two precincts for a recount, and the two precincts that were chosen for Watauga County was the Meat Camp Election Day precinct and the ASU one-stop precinct for the entirety of the one-stop early voting period.
Board members met last Thursday, Nov. 5, to do the recount and Snyder said the numbers for Meat Camp were spot on and the ASU precinct was off by one vote for two candidates.
“Traditionally, we can count for this as human error and that’s how it was reported to the state,” Snyder said during the meeting. “However, the state feels that with all things being considered, they would like for us to redo the recount to make sure we can identify whether it was a human error or whether it was a machine error.”
The Watauga County Board of Elections will begin the recount on Thursday.
After the director’s update, another topic that was brought up for discussion among the board members was the case of a double vote.
A North Carolina voter cast an absentee by mail ballot in Johnston County and then cast a ballot at a one-stop early voting site in Watauga County.
Watauga County Board of Elections Member Eric Eller asked for an update of the status of the double vote situation.
Snyder responded that the Johnston County Board of Elections filed paperwork to challenge the absentee ballot and to remove the ballot from their totals. Watauga County Board of Elections has not challenged the ballot.
“I think the ballot in this county is unquestionably illegal,” Eller said. “And I don’t know what procedure, if any, there is to discount it, but I don’t have any doubt in my mind that it’s in violation, which of course means that that’s an illegal ballot. That means that there’s some voter in Watauga County whose ballot was canceled by one that should have never been allowed. I’m not very happy about that. We have done a disservice to the voters of this county by not challenging that ballot.”
Both Johnston County and Watauga County boards of elections received guidance from the state on the matter. The voter who was legally registered now only has one ballot being counted in the election. The case also has been referred to the state for any possible legal ramifications.
Eller further said, “I think we do need to refer to an investigation and potential prosecution. I think we should refer not only to the state, which we are required to do, but I think we should refer to our local district attorney.”
The board members continued with the discussion mentioning differing opinions about the situation.
Watauga County Board of Elections member Nancy Owen said, “I think what happened was she voted there absentee, then she came here and voted one-stop and then she got caught. So, if she wouldn’t have gotten caught, she wasn’t going to fess up to voting twice.”
She further said, “I just think that it’s unfortunate that anyone in this county can vote twice and there’s no repercussions.”
Watauga County Board of Elections member Matt Walpole responded and said, “That is absolutely not true. This has gotten to the point where it’s simply just throwing shade on the electoral process. A voter who is a legally registered voter did in fact vote twice. One of them was caught and canceled. It was referred up the ladder to our superiors for advice and possible legal action. We did what we were supposed to do.”
Eller then said, “This individual voted twice. That in of itself is illegal. Regardless of in which one of the counties, the act of voting twice, is illegal in and of itself.”
Walpole responded, “An election with millions of votes is going to have individual glitches. This is an individual glitch that got caught. It got reported. It got fixed. I think it has already been handled.”
By the end of the discussion, the Watauga County Board of Elections carried the motion to send a formal request to the state asking what legal action has or they will be taking concerning the matter.
Watauga County Board of Election Members include: Chair Michael Behrent, Secretary Marv Williamsen, Eric Eller, Nancy Owen, and Matt Walpole.
To hear updates about this situation and other Watauga County Board of Election items, the public can attend the next meeting virtually on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 5 p.m.
Watauga County Board of Elections
Meeting and Public Service Announcement
In order to maintain the safety of County residents, the Watauga County Board of Elections meeting scheduled for 5 P.M. on Thursday, November 12, 2020 will be conducted at the County Courthouse and electronically. The public may access this meeting by calling: +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) or +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Once you call, you will be prompted to enter the following code:
Meeting ID: 834 3974 4590
Alternatively, you may join the meeting via the internet.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 834 3974 4590