- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Primary ballots in 20 North Carolina counties still are being examined nearly two months after the March 15 election vote to ensure a photo identification law enforced for the first time and other voting laws were implemented correctly.

State election officials said such audits are designed to promote statewide uniformity by county election officials and local precinct workers on how provisional ballots will be counted or handled in advance of the fall election. A smaller review occurred after the May 2014 primary.

“This is about making sure the results are correct but it is also about making sure the counties are educated about issues,” state board Executive Director Kim Strach said Wednesday. “In November, we won’t have this ability.”

The scrutiny means primary election results for president, governor and many other races still aren’t official. State law requires the state board make general election results official in a few weeks. There is no such requirement for primary results. Congressional primary races were delayed until June 7 because of redistricting litigation.

More than 40,000 provisional ballots were cast for the March 15 election, nearly double the amount in the last presidential year primary in May 2012, according to State Board of Elections data.

A potential voter casts a provisional ballot in several circumstances, such as when there is no record of the person’s voter registration, the person showed up at the wrong precinct or provided no identification. Just after the election, local election officials determine whether the person was qualified to vote. If so, their votes count.

All or some of the choices in 57 percent of the March primary provisional ballots have been counted so far.

But examinations of results in some counties completed after the elections indicate more ballots ultimately will be counted. The extra inspections aren’t expected to alter unofficial winners, Strach said. About 2.3 million ballots were cast in the primary.

Election officials in 18 counties were told to re-canvass results - essentially recalculating the vote totals - in light of what the state audits uncovered. Recanvassing started Monday and should be completed within a week, Strach said.

In Forsyth County, about 160 provisional ballots that weren’t signed by the voter still are being examined, county elections director Tim Tsujii said Wednesday. In Durham County, the state board “is closely scrutinizing provisional totals” there, board general counsel Josh Lawson said, declining further comment.

The audits also examined how the new voter ID law was carried out.

Nearly 2,300 people who didn’t present one of six forms of qualifying IDs required under the new voter ID mandate also cast provisional ballots. The ballots usually counted when the voter also filled out a form saying they faced obstacles to obtaining an ID. But some didn’t. Strach said some counties are being asked to review those forms again to make sure their ballots weren’t wrongly denied.

Statewide provisional ballot data also showed more than 7,200 people who cast provisional ballots were registered in one party but wanted to vote in another party’s primary - six times the number in the 2012 primary. Hall and Strach said increased interest in the presidential primary races could be the reason.

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