Sometimes, you’re in the “right pew – wrong church,” said Doug Lewis, the executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of State Election Directors, as he talked about one of the ways people use provisional ballots. For years, voters in North Carolina have been able to use a provisional ballot for several reasons. Among them, they could have their vote counted even if they had shown up at the wrong precinct – the wrong church – to pick candidates. Not anymore. Among the sweeping changes brought by North Carolina’s new election law, the one requiring voter-identification by 2016 has drawn much of the attention, but the election law also implemented a slew of other changes. Under the new law, provisional ballots will still be counted under certain circumstances. For example, a provisional ballot will count if voters use one because they did not show up on the list of registered voters at their precinct but are in fact at the correct precinct and were properly registered before the election. But starting in 2014, voters will no longer have their votes counted if they use a provisional ballot outside their correct precinct.
The Nov. 5 municipal elections were the last round of elections in which voters could do that. With the change, North Carolina comes in line with a majority of other states, Lewis said. “You need to go to your church, not this church. I think that’s what they’re saying: There is no reason to vote here,” Lewis said.
Critics – mostly Democrats – say that the change represents an effort to prevent people from having their votes counted.