BOONE — A Watauga early voter in the 2020 N.C. primaries voted twice after unintentionally being handed two ballots by poll workers on Feb. 13, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections and Watauga County Elections Board officials.
“At the end of the first day of early voting, Feb. 13, poll workers at the Appalachian State early voting site discovered that there were 283 ballots in the ballot bin, with only 282 voters having checked in to vote that day,” said Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the N.C. State Board of Elections, on Feb. 26. “It appears that one voter was inadvertently handed two ballots (likely stuck together due to moisture) and the voter then voted both ballots.”
Watauga County Elections Board Chair Jane Ann Hodges, who was the office’s director for 30 years, said she has never encountered a double vote in Watauga County previously. Current Director Matthew Snyder said he’s never encountered the issue in his four-plus years in the post.
“I hate that this has happened,” Hodges said. “I just am very embarrassed that this happened and that somebody in Watauga County would do this.”
Hodges said that she was made aware of the situation by Snyder immediately after he was contacted by the precinct workers.
“I went in immediately,” Hodges explained.
The bag with the ballots was opened by Hodges, Snyder and elections office employee John Hill, Hodges said.
Hodges, a Democrat, noted that Hill, a Republican, was present when the bag was opened to ensure there were no conflicts of interest.
“Officials went through the 283 ballots and found that one ballot did not have the voter number, precinct or machine number written on it, as all ballots should,” Gannon stated. “This was the ballot accidentally given to the voter, and it will not be counted.”
“It was very easy to determine which ballot it was,” Hodges said. “It was separated from the others and the bag was signed off by (Snyder), (Hill) and myself.”
Hodges said that the ballot will be removed from the totals when the early-voting results are tallied on Election Day.
Gannon added that although the voter should not have voted on the additional ballot, it did not have any identifying information on it and thus there was no way to tie it back to a particular voter.
Intentionally casting more than one ballot in an election is a Class I felony in North Carolina, Gannon added.
“If additional information comes forward, we would look into it.” Gannon said. “This is an example of Watauga County’s process working perfectly to detect a discrepancy and remedy it to ensure that ballot was not counted.”
Hodges added that it would difficult to determine who submitted the ballot.
Going forward, Hodges said that precinct poll workers at the Plemmons Student Union site were instructed to be more careful and to be more alert in making sure a double vote does not happen again.