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Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

10 Voter Challenges Filed In Union County, But How Do Other Counties Challenge Ballots?

Union County Board of Elections starting to review and count absentee mail-in ballots during the pre-canvass meeting.
Coleen Harry
Union County Board of Elections starting to review and count absentee mail-in ballots during the pre-canvass meeting.

This article is made possible through a partnership between WFAE and Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of our republishing policy.

County boards of election are meeting Friday to certify the elections, but first, at least one board has to address voter challenges.

Ballots can be successfully challenged for several reasons, among them: A voter not being a citizen, voting twice, or even if a person voted early but died before Election Day.

The votes of 10 residents in Union County are being challenged for those last two reasons — but there are no similar challenges in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Lincoln and Anson counties. (Paul Newby, a candidate for chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, filed a challenge Thursday of nearly 2,000 mail-in votes in Mecklenburg).

Why the difference?

Union County’s board of elections staff checked death records and state databases, and brought concerns about the 10 voters to the board’s attention. But election directors in Mecklenburg and Lincoln counties say they rely on citizens for voter challenges.

WFAE is waiting to hear back from directors in other counties.

Union County’s voter challenge forms show five challenges for voters who voted twice, and five challenges for voters who are dead.

“Voters who died after voting early and before Election Day were found through death notices provided by our Register of Deeds,” said Brett Vines, the spokesperson for Union County Board of Elections. “Double voters were discovered by staff.”

Union County Elections Director Kristin Jacumin says the state has a system that flags voters who cast ballots on Election Day but also sent absentee mail-in ballots.

Vines said of the five people who voted more than once, four voters sent mail-in ballots but then decided to vote in person. One voter voted twice in person. Richard Becht told WFAE he voted during early voting, but when he checked online, his voting history didn’t show his ballot so he voted again on Elections Day.

“We have a certain time period to file those challenges — that was Election Day between 12 p.m. to 5 p.m,” Jacumin said. “The board filed that challenge so they can look at the evidence, and then if they find that the voter voted twice, we can pull one of those votes so it will not count— retrieve that ballot.”

Jacumin says board members discussed the voter challenges during a meeting on Election Day, and Board Chair Harry Crow, Jr signed the challenge forms. Jacumin says the board will make decisions about the voter challenges today when it meets to certify the elections results.

In the run-up to Friday’s canvass meeting, Union County election officials met on Thursday to review and approve mail-in absentee ballots and provisional ballots.

Jacumin says the board approved 380 provisional ballots. She says 529 provisional ballots were rejected because election workers couldn’t verify the voters’ registrations or eligibility. A voter’s provisional ballot can be rejected if the voter is registered in another county, moved to another county or registered past the deadline. Board members will review an additional 27 provisional ballots that are pending because voters had until 5 p.m. Thursday to show proof of residency.

Vines says the board had more than 700 absentee mail-in ballots to count. Board members looked at an additional 119 cure certificates for envelopes that were initially missing the address of the witness or the person who assisted the voter. They approved 117 certificates.

This story was updated to reflect that Paul Newby has filed a challenge to mail-in votes in Mecklenburg County.

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Updated: November 14, 2020 at 9:19 AM EST