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Election Law Changes: Provisional Ballots No Longer Allowed Outside of Assigned Precinct

Smithsonian Institute

The Primary Election is less than eight weeks away, and new rules will be in place at the polls this May. 

Whether the changes actually affect voters depends almost entirely on whether that voter has a current registration.  Checking that status before the deadline is the most important thing a voter can do this season, says New Hanover County Elections Director Marvin McFadyen.  Because another significant change facing voters this year is the way provisional ballots are handled. 

“Before 2014, you could cast a provisional ballot in any precinct.  We call that a partial ballot.  If the board was able to determine that you qualified to be registered and vote on Election Day, then we could count your statewide contest, your countywide contest – things of that nature.”

If you voted in the wrong district, races such as the state senate or state house were parts of the ballot not counted by the Elections Board.  But this year, says McFadyen, there won’t even be the chance to vote provisional in a state or county race outside of your precinct. 

“The law now requires that you must vote provisional ballot in the precinct that you would be assigned to.  So if you’re voting provisional outside of your assigned precinct, the Board of Elections will not be counting that ballot.  So again, voter registration:  understand your address, understand your precinct assignments, understand your polling places."

This year’s registration deadline is April 11th.  If you’re not registered by that date, you’re out of luck for the primary.  Registering and voting on the same day is no longer an option. 

If you don’t know your precinct:

Call the office of the Board of Elections. 

New Hanover County:  910.798.7330 or visithttp://www.nhcgov.com/Elections/Pages/Welcome.aspx

Brunswick County:  910.253.2620 or visit http://www.brunswickcountync.gov/Departments/GeneralGovernment/BoardofElections.aspx

Pender County:  910-259-1220 or visit http://www.pendercountync.gov/Government/Departments/BoardofElections.aspx

Columbus County:  (910)640-6609  orhttp://www.columbusco.org/DotNetNuke_2/Default.aspx?alias=www.columbusco.org/dotnetnuke_2/elections

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.