Vote Early! (but not often)

Folks, the election is just about here. And you don't have to wait until November to vote. Orange County will have three early voting sites. You do not have to have any special reason for voting early, so come on down starting this Monday (October 18, 2004) to one of the following places:

Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00 – October 18-29
Saturdays – 9:00-5:00 – October 23 & October 30

CARRBORO – TOWN HALL – 301 W. Main St.
Monday-Friday 9:00-5:00 – October 18-29
Saturdays – 9:00-5:00 – October 23 & October 30

Monday-Thursday 8:00-5:00 – October 14-29
Fridays – 8:00-6:00 – October 15, 22 & 29
Saturdays – 9:00-5:00 – October 16, 23 & 30

Just as Dr King taught us that we must use love to defeat hatred, so let us use democracy to defeat tyranny.



Oh and one more thing, because I think Duncan Murrell might particularly enjoy it: Tyrrany really is the right word here.

"tyrannoi . . . the term regards the irregular way in which the power was gained, whether by force or fraud, rather than the way in which that power was exercised . . ."
-Liddell & Scott's Greek-English Lexicon

For all newly registered voters--you must take 2 forms of ID with you, whether you vote early or on Nov. 2. Acceptable forms of ID are an NC drivers license (no other states license will be accepted) and a utility bill with your current address on it. If you don't have an NC drivers license, you can use a university/state ID or a passport. There seems to be a good deal of confusion about this requirement, so it wouldn't hurt to take more than the minimum.

Terri--I just got off the phone with the Orange County Board of Elections. IF you have a NCDL that is the ONLY form of ID you need. If, however, you do NOT have a NCDL THEN you need an additional ID. (such as passport, utility bill, etc.)

My son got his absentee ballot with ONLY a NCDL.

It won't hurt to HAVE extra ID, but you are NOT required to have both.

Terri--where did you get the info that you needed both?



We have had several people call the board of elections, look at printed instructions, etc. and have gotten different stories each time. The best protection is to have multiple forms of identification. The county Dems are going to have poll watchers making sure the law is correctly interpreted, but if new voters have multiple forms of identification with them when they show up at the polling place, problems can be addressed after the fact instead of delaying everyone in line behind them, using a provisional ballot, etc. This is a better-safe-than-sorry suggestion.

I'm handling voting-related legal issues for the Orange County Dems. Actually, not every newly registered needs ID, and you do NOT need a driver's license or other photo ID if you don't have one with you.

This is a new law, part of the Help America Vote Act, and the requirements are these:

Voters who registered by mail after December 2002 and did not provide their driver's license or last four digits of their SS# who have not voted in a subsequent federal election may be asked to show ONE piece of identification:

a valid photo ID such as a drivers license, student ID or military ID,
a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document.

The law (NC General Statutes § 163-166.12)does not require a photo ID.

Mr. White,

I called the Board of Election, so did one of my friends. I specifically asked whether they were looking for proof of identity or proof of residence...didn't get a clear answer. I've gone to the GOTV meeting, read the literature, and seen a couple of emails on the topic. If the BOE can't give a consistent story, are you positive that officials at the polling places will? I'm not trying to bash anyone or challenge credibility. It's a new law and there's clearly some confusion. If we're all supposed to be encouraging early voting to eliminate possible problems, wouldn't it be better to take more ID than is absolutely required?

Hey y'all,

Chris with the NC Voting Rights Project here. Jim and Terri -- you're both right.

Jim is correct in terms of what forms of ID may be asked of and accepted from first-time voters.

Terri is also right, however, in that despite the state board of elections directives, we've found that many county election boards aren't clear internally about what constitutes valid ID. Furthermore, how poll workers -- another link in the chain -- will decide to carry out this new provison is also somewhat unpredictable.

We're encouraging all first-time/newly-registered voters to carry a couple different forms of ID, just to be on the safe side. No need to get voters scared and intimidated; but where appropriate, encourage voters to "be prepared."

For more info you can download the NC Voter's Bil of Rights at

I will be a judge at one of the Carrboro locations, and will be getting trained again by the BOE next week. I will report back what we are trained to accept as poll workers. I have it in my manual from last time I was trained for the primaries, but I can't locate it.

The BOE was very clear about what was accepted and what was not last time. They documented it well so poll workers could reference it while working. I see no reason for inconsistant application of the law on this.

During the primary, I did not see one person turned down because they did not have the correct ID with them.

Hopefully we won't have an over zealous "application of the law", as Mr. Blog so dryly puts it, resulting in voter suppression. It would be disappointing to see the shenanigans already being performed elsewhere migrate to our neck of the woods.

OK, I can weigh on on this one:

1) if you registered in Orange County before 1/1/2003 you do not need ID

2) If you registered to vote in Orange County one or after 1/1/2003, and did not provide your North Carolina Driver's license number on your registration form, then the FIRST time you vote you need to provide EITHER a "current and valid" photo ID OR a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document with the name and address of the voter.

You may notice that the options under #2 involve proving EITHER your IDENTITY or you RESIDENCE. This is because it was a legislative compromise between Republicans who wanted both and Democrats who wanted neither.

As to the current and valid photo ID, it can be a student ID, or an unexpired drivers license. Here in Wake County where I live, they are accepting out of state drivers licenses.

The part about providing the last four digits of your social security number is inoperative, because it applies only if they can do a database match with the feds and the feds do not have any system online yet to do this.

I have been to several national conferences concerning HAVA and the new ID requirements.

A legislative compromise explains the contradictions in the requirements. A drivers license, regardless of the address showing on it, merely documents that you are who you say your are (kind of). A utility bill merely provides an address. Independently they don't ensure that you are registered to vote in your county of residence or that you are who you say you are. This is just unjustified bureacracy IMHO. I've had to show identification in order to vote in other states and never objected--but then again, identification was required of everyone and there was logic behind the requirement.

However, my recommendation of taking more ID than is required is insurance against poll officials who may not *interprete* or *apply* the law correctly. Recommendation still stands, especially after reading more about voter suppression in other states.

It may also be a useful reminder for people to know before voting that in North Carolina (and SC also, I believe) that you are NOT voting for the President and the Vice President if you only vote "Straight Party Ticket." They are excluded from the straight party ticket and must be voted upon separately. Seems like a bigger deal should be made of this so voters know about it before voting.

The sample ballot can be seen at
and the warning is on the ballot, but ...

Voted in Hillspborough today--after I dropped off my out-of-state college kid's absentee ballot. (He filled it out while he was home for Fall Break. For some reason he didn't trust the USPS.) No one asked for my ID. Of course, I've been registered in OC since 1983...and voted every year.


As more and more people vote early, will the Board of Elections only reflect those votes as "Absentee," or will they report them at some point under the home precinct? Seems like it will make it harder to understand what happened in various precincts if more and more voters are reflected as "absentee." Is it even possible to transfer the votes back to the home precincts?

See the story in today's Durham Herald Sun about people casting their ballots and not voting for president when they vote a straight party ticket.

"Although the instructions are in capital letter and the words MUST and SEPARATELY are in bold print, at least half a dozen voters have told elections workers they realized they had not voted for president after slipping their ballot sheets into the tabulator, the machine that counts the votes."

And those are the ones who realized their error!

Perhaps, if you aren't bright enough TO READ AND FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS, you oughtn't to be voting? Seriously, when I went to vote early, the person who handed me my ballot made a point of SHOWING me the instructions, and then MAKING CERTAIN I knew exactly what I had to do.

Bummer for the folks who realized to late--but voting for president WAS at the top of the ballot, (upper left-hand side?) if I remember correctly. I mean, my kid, who had never voted before, got the whole thing right. (He asked his dad to look it over and make sure he hadn't missed anything.)


Thanks, Gerry, that's good news about 2006.

As for privacy, remember that if you vote early, there is no "secret ballot." Your ballot has a number on it that is also on the form you sign, so your ballot can be retrieved by name at a later date. This I believe is done as a protection against voter fraud, but it means voting early requires you to forgo a secret ballot.

True, sort of, Fred. Ballots are not open to public inspection, however, so only BOE officials would have access to that information. That is not a secret ballot, but it is not an open ballot either.

1) the list of absentee voters is public information. A lot of candidates use it to send direct mail out to voters scattered around the country. It can actually be downloaded right now from the State Board of Elections website (I tried doing it to see what the party breakdown of one stop voters is for Orange, but the spreadsheet is so large that when it got to Catawba County it would not let me download anymore without using the "download wizard" to download the excess to other spreadhseets, and I did not have the time or technical knowhow.

2) beginning in 2006 the actual voting will be reported back by precinct.

the election totals will NOT be transferred back to the home precinct, but it WILL be pssoble to get totals for how many people VOTED one stop from each precinct, and get party affiliation totals by precinct for one stop voters The ballots are all counted together in one stack.

== by the way, here are final voter registration totals for Orange:

New voter registration in Orange County August 1 until deadline

D 5340 47.0%
R 2382 21.0%
U 3284 33.6%
L 84 0.7%
TOTAL 11,626

also 5,491 address changes reported during that period

== my recollection is the two previous high water marks for fall voter registration in Orange were 1972 and 1992, each with about 7,500 new voters.

Thanks for the information, Gerry. Does NC handle this the same way as other states? It seems that in this age of high tech capabilities, we should at some point be able to show exactly how a precinct actually voted, whether early or on election day.

It's also great to see that we have so many new registered voters and I hope that they all actually vote! I voted yesterday at Morehead and they indicated that they expected to hit 1,00 voters for the day!

Gerry--my understanding from the county Dems is that we will get a list of who, from our precinct, voted in the early elections so that we can concentrate our Nov. 2 get-out-the- vote activities on those who haven't yet voted. I'm not sure whether we will get a list of those who have voted absentee.

To be honest, I don't know how I feel about this. It will be helpful for getting out the vote, but it strikes me as somewhat invasive of individual privacy.

To quote today's DTH: "At Morehead Planetarium, another one-stop voting location, has seen 3,579 voters, many of them students, since it opened on Oct. 18."

Please encourage anyone voting for Kerry/Edwards to get out early before the October surprise ;-)!

North Carolinians prove Floridians have nothing on us! People who cannot follow clear instructions ought to vote, but also deserve to make whatever mistakes they make. (Will there be cries of racism, like in Florida? Never could understand that.)

Wow, lots of intolerance here for what I see as pretty easy mistakes at the voting booth. Have you seen that ballot? It's pretty confusing. We vote, at most, once or twice a year. If you are new to the state or new to voting, or only vote every four years, or even if you vote every time you can, it's easy to be overwhelmed by the ballot. It doesn't look like other forms we fill out.

I also think it's ridiculous that a straight-party vote doesn't cover president, especially since the president is the de facto leader of his party. For many people, Republican = Bush, Democrat = Kerry, and it's easy to see why a voter would think a straight party vote covers it all. It might say it on the directions, but these ballots aren't exactly made by professional designers. They are hard to read. Plus, just because one very conscientious poll worker explained the directions to one voter doesn't mean this happens everywhere...

Plus, with all the various offices and amendments--it's a lot to take in.

Also, if you are illiterate, and cannot read, you can still vote. Essentially, what's being advocated here, even if in jest, is that only people who can read extremely complicated directions in English should be voting. Just think about the implications of that for a moment.

Umm, yes, I saw the ballot--I voted. They also EXPLAINEDTHE BALLOT as they handed it to you. AND pointed out the section that you needed to mark if you wanted to vote for president. And made a POINT of telling you that youhad to vote separately for President EVEN IF YOU VOTED A STRAIGHT PARTY TICKET. They also pointed out all the non-partisan issues on the back.

So, no, you didn't have to read "extemely complicated directions in English." And it wasn't one concientious poll worker. My husband voted early as well, on a different day, at a different polling site, and got the exact same instructions. I think the poll workers were given a script to follow--or at least instructed on how to give directions. And, as I recall, I got the same instructions on voting for President the LAST time I voted for President in 2000...and in 1996....and 1992...Because as long as i've lived here, one has had to vote separately for President, even if one was going to vote a "straight party ticket." (Which, until this year, I'd never done.)

I will admit, however, that I have only voted in Orange County. It is possible, I suppose, that other counties are not as diligent in giving instructions. But, since this is supposed to be a forum for ORANGEcounty politics...I figured the majority of the folks posting are registered (and, one hopes, VOTE) in Orange County.

I guess I am feeling a wee bit intolerant. This election is awfully important. DOE published sample ballots in all the papers; there have been multiple news stories about the ballot...and all you have to do at the pollsif you don't understand the ballot is ASK.

Step up and take some responsibility, people.

Melanie, I think your comments are very insensitive! Everyone should have every opportunity to cast their vote, I don't see any value in judging who is more worthy of it. I just think we should do everything possible to make it easier for everyone to vote no matter what their challenges are.

That said, I am starting to wonder if there might be a silver lining to the exclusion of the Presidential race from the straight ticket. I have heard from many Republicans that they are going to vote for a Democrat for president - many for the first time in their lives. These people probably still want to go with Republicans in the other races, but might make an exception for president.

But I think almost anyone can see that the ballot could and should be designed better. Especially after learning in 2000 how very important information design can be!

Wouldn't the easiest thing be to just remove straight ticket voting? Doing so would eliminate all this confusion. The downside is that everyone would have to make a dozen more little lines. Big deal. At least it's clear. No special instructions needed.

Either that, or put the presidential election back under straight ticket voting, the way it was before the NC dems disowned McGovern in 72.

Also, did you know you can vote a straight ticket, and still mark candidates of the other party, as exceptions? Votes for candidates in specific races override the straight ticket vote.

If you have ever done “new voter” education, one of the first things you gain an appreciation for is “voter anxiety,” something much like test anxiety. For many, the stress is high and as a result, mistakes are made.

The second thing you learn is something that life-long voters may take for granted: HOW DO YOU VOTE? is just not clear to many new voters. This is truly a challenge for many voters to overcome. Many school districts now support educational programs that teach young people about the mechanics of voting long before they become eligible to vote.

It's easy to dismiss this as an issue worth being concerned about as some here have, but it is a real phenomenon. Plain fact is that the NC ballot is not user friendly, and especially if you have never voted before. Take for example the three District 15-B judges on the ballot. Could someone mistakenly conclude that they are supposed to only select one of the three? Of course, all three win if they simply vote for themselves, regardless of what anybody else does. But hopefully, you can see the problem here.

As for cries of racism Ed, I saw nothing in the article identifying who in Durham admitted to making the mistake of not voting for president. Why do you assume what you did? And if you don't think there was any racism involved in what happened in Florida in 2000, then you just didn't read the stories covering what did happened. Sadly, racism was present, but I frankly fail to understand the connection that you are trying to make.

Fred, that was a comment I should have left off my post, as it begs for an off-topic discussion (ie, it not related to local politics). I will only say this: I know there were some racist actions taken in Florida in 2000, but one charge was that the punch card ballots themselves were racist. That is what I don't understand. No, it wasn't brought up in the Durham article, but since I was comparing NC to FL, I made the offhand conjecture. Consider it withdrawn, if you will.

Hi all,
I already voted and received the same
instructions about the presidential race
not being part of the straight ticket, so
the message seems to be constant, if
somewhat overdone, but I don't mind.

As far as our ballot having a poor design,
here is an absentee ballot from
Cleveland -- check it out and try
to figure out how to use it, even
without any stress:

By the way, the website seems to do an
excellent and impartial job of figuring
out election totals according to the
electoral college, and they change their
data daily, according to the latest
state-wide polls.

In Swain County, NC (that's in the far western part of the state), where I've voted most recently, they still have machines with little buttons. When you pull the straight-party ticket level, you can easily see that the presidential race did not register a vote. You can also move any of the little tabs that you want. The machines are old and weird, to be sure, but the point is that we shouldn't even assume that everyone in NC is looking at an actual "ballot." Those machines also make writing in a candidate difficult, as you have to ask for a separate ballot.

US voter registration procedures are cumbersome; there's no reason you shouldn't be able to register the same day you vote.

Ruby, I agree: in a democracy, we don't have to earn the right to vote. Instead, we should be making it as easy as possible for everyone to vote, even those deemed unworthy by others. And I don't think we should assume that on a busy election day, everyone will get the same clear directions verbally (and those directions certainly wouldn't help the hearing impaired either--and I don't think we'd advocate removing their right to vote).

FYI--I wasn't deeming anyone "unworthy." I just take voting seriously...and didn't find the instructions OR the ballot confusing. Perhaps I should self-censor, so I don't upset folks. Consider me properly chastened. Tail between my legs, etc.

Ed--I'm pretty certain I heard a discussion about when the Presidential race was "uncoupled" from the straight party ticket. Must have been on WUNC--but I can't find a transcript to site the source. If memory serves, it was LONG before the 1972 election. I want to say 1946...but may be mis-remebering. I DO remember it was in the 40's. SO it wasn't because the dems disowned McGovern.

BLAST-if anyone can help me track down the source I'd be obliged. I HATE it when I can't site my sources.

Will attempt to behave myself so I don't distress y'all anymore.


I relied on the Herald article--which is the basis for this discussion--for the history around the ballot change. The article quoted a Durham election official:

I'm not in the “distressed” column over this issue, but I do care because this is a real problem for some voters. The point that Joe C. made about the reminders, the radio spots, the info in the paper, the change posted on the BOE site, and other reminders are an acknowledgement of this being a problem for some voters.

One article discussing this is at:

When discussing the only two states in the nation with this “problem,” NC and SC, they report: “The two states suffered among the nation's worst rates among voters who did not cast a vote for president four years ago. North Carolina voters cast 3,015,964 ballots, but only 2,914,990 votes were counted for president. South Carolinians cast 1,433,533 ballots, but only 1,382,721 presidential votes were certified.”

Clearly there is a problem, and 1% of voters can make a big difference in a close election. Is this a problem because some voters just can't follow instructions, or is it that we make it difficult for voters becuase the ballot confuses them? I think we should make a commitment to remove any and all barriers to voting, just as we removed other voting barriers in the past.

I think the ballots are designed and approved by representatives of both politicial parties, so if you have a concern about them, perhaps that's the place to start.

Ed--I saw that article. I'm pretty certain the radio program I heard the 1940's info on was "The State of Things." Unfortunately, I can't tell from the written descriptions WHICH recent show I heard it on, nor can I remember which DAY I heard it on...but I remembered it because it surprised me. I, too, thought the two were separated in '72. I'll go hunt some more...

FOUND IT! They were separated in 1967. Jack Betts stated that they had been separated for "almost 40 years now." (That's where I got the "40's"date.) The dems decoupled them so that the SOuthern Dems would not suffer from Pesidential backlash because of "social changes because of the passage of Civil Rights legislation."

Also--State BOE director gary Bartlett has instructed poll workers to
ask people if they need help voting
when they sign in and to remind folks that they MUST VOTE SEPARATELY for President. So it's NOT an anomaly that we who vote in OC have been given that instruction.

So there you have it. If you want to listen for yourself--here is the archived show:


I think I noted this on another thread, but it bears mentioning it here, as well. When I voted on Monday in Carrboro, a woman came out and went over the ballot for the first 20 or so people waiting in line, to speed things up. She DID NOT mention specifically that a straight ticket vote would not include a vote for president. She said something like, "First you vote for president, then you have your straight ticket voting." Later she did say that a straight ticket vote would not cast a vote in the judicial races. But she did not say that about the presidential race. Someone in line did mention it when she was done, but I don't think everyone heard him.

It's a flawed ballot, no doubt about it. Either straight ticket voting should be just that, or that option should be removed from the ballot.

My gut tells me that a majority of straight ticket voters in NC vote Democrat. Anyone have any data on this? If so, Kerry is losing more votes than Bush from this confusion, all other things being equal.

The article Fred linked to is most interesting. With all the foul-ups in counting (or not counting) Florida's ballots, a greater precentage of presidential votes were counted in Florida than in NC or SC. NC and SC are the ONLY two states with this exception-to-the-straight-ticket type of ballot. What else do we need to know to get rid of it?

Unfortunately, our Republican and conservative Democratic legislators might like it just the way it is. And that's a powerful contingent. They need to be put in the position of supporting voter confusion if they vote to keep it.

Anita, several organizations have been in contact with the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBOE) about ballot issues and have made suggestions for improving the ballot. The SBOE certify the official ballots and voter instructions to be used in every election. It is composed of five members appointed by the Governor. Historically, three members are affiliated with the political party of the incumbent Governor and the two remaining members are affiliated with the largest other political party. The State Board appoints the three members of each of the State's 100 county boards of elections. Historically, the two members of each county board are affiliated with the political party of the incumbent Governor and the remaining member is affiliated with the remaining major political party.

Each county board of elections prepares and produces official ballots for all elections in that county. The county board of elections must submit the format of each official ballot and set of instructions to the State Board of Elections for review and certification.

Since the two were uncoupled in 1967 NC has (collectively) voted for a Dem president only once--Carter in 1976. I don't think this is because they separated the two, I think it's because most of the state's conservative Democrats believe that the Dem presidential candidates are too "liberal."


I just got back from waiting 35 minutes to vote at Carrboro Town Hall! The line was even longer when I left than when I got there. Democracy is on the march! (Or is that mosh?)

I have some clarity on the issue of whether voters have to show their ID. Apparently if you registered in NC but haven't voted since January 1, 2003, they want to see your ID. Otherwise I guess they think they have already carded you and don't need to do it again.

This was printed on a peice of paper at the table where you check in and I confirmed my understanding of it with the registrar. It's amazing what you can learn when you read directions.

You are right, Ruby. It IS amazing what you can learn when you read directions.

"N.C. Supreme Court Rules Out-of-Precinct Ballots Unlawful
By The Associated Press
(02/04/05 -- RALEIGH) — The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Friday that provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct on election day cannot be lawfully counted, raising new questions about the state's Nov. 2 election results."

Guess the 2004 election really isn't over!


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