VIP Prompts SBE Release of Un-Returned Ballot Data

Oct 30, 2010 (Raleigh) After a flurry of emails yesterday between Voter Integrity Project and the state agency responsible for overseeing North Carolina’s elections, the NC State Board of Elections issued a press release reporting that, as of Oct 28, while nearly 1.5 million absentee ballots were requested before the deadline, all but 273,000 had either been received or replaced (cancelled) after an in-person vote.

Our initial query to the SBE came as a technical question about this web landing page’s statistics table. At the time it showed around 1.5 million absentee ballot requests and around 850,000 absentee ballots cast.

By using simple subtraction, an otherwise intelligent people might mistakenly assume 600,000 absentee ballots had still not been cast… but we’re not those people. That’s we dug into the numbers.

Testing the System

Earlier this election season, the SBE advised the public that any voters who ordered a ballot could still opt to vote in-person and didn’t need to return their absentee ballots. They may have even advised such the voters to “throw away” their unused absentee ballot.

“The announcement worried enough people that we decided to run a test,” said Jay DeLancy, Founder of Voter Integrity Project, “so several volunteers ordered an absentee ballot and didn’t use them. Instead, they voted in person.”

Otherwise, we lamented, some jerk could use the additional ballot to vote a second time. . .  or a third time! Heck! They could even sell it to the Russians!

With imaginations starting to run wild, we needed to know how this would be prevented.

The good news is that somebody at the SBE was also worried about the problem. Their solution was to cancel our absentee ballots as soon as our corresponding in-person ballots were recorded.

Math!! Again??!!

After thanking them for the great safeguard, we asked SBE Media Wizard, Patrick Gannon how the cancelled ballots would impact the statistics table. Would it lower the section reporting 1.5 million ballots had been requested?

He shot the question over to a new data analyst the SBE hired last June, Dr. Caroline Myrick.

Would a cancelled ballot lower that “Absentee Ballots Requested” number?

Her answer was, “no,” but she also got the overall intent and surprised us with the press release later in the afternoon.

Thank you!

Buuuuut… acting like a typical news organization, we’re never completely satisfied. We asked a followed up question: Would they consider reporting the final outstanding-ballot numbers (and party affiliations) again after Early Voting closes on Saturday?

We’ll let you know what happens next.