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Rowan Board of Elections finalizes 2020 election totals, refers handful of challenged ballots to law enforcement

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Elections referred challenged ballots to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and upheld the final results of the election during its canvassing meeting Friday.

After spending Thursday counting absentee by mail and approving provisional ballots, Friday’s canvass meeting started with a hearing for five ballots challenged. None of the voters were present for the meeting.

Rowan County Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins said she made contact with four of the five voters. The fifth ballot was cast from a deceased voter in which their ballot cure affidavit was signed.

The challenged ballots included a college student who completed same-day registration during the early voting period in the county where his college was located. However, Rowan County had already accepted a ballot from him prior to his vote in another county.

McCubbins said the student told her he was contacted by a third party that his ballot cure affidavit was not approved. She added that the board has received many calls from voters concerned about the swarm of emails, calls and text messages from these third parties.

“I really feel like a lot of people were getting these false messages,” she said.

Board chair John T. Hudson said college students voting in the state or county of their school in addition to their home state or county is “a hole that needs to be filled” as it isn’t uncommon.

The board did not unanimously agree on referring that case to the appropriate law enforcement agency, but the motion passed. Board member George W. Benson was in opposition.

Another ballot was cast by a convicted felon. The board voted to refer that case to the ineligible voter’s local law enforcement agency. Hudson said the district attorney has usually been contacted for such incidents.

Another ballot was cast by a resident of Cabarrus County.

A ballot not referred to law enforcement came from a man who inserted his absentee ballot into the early voting tabulator machine. McCubbins told board members during the meeting there was a miscommunication between him and the election official who pointed him in the direction he needed to go to turn in his absentee ballot.

McCubbins said the board of elections staff have already adjusted tallies to reflect votes considered ineligible.

The board then approved final results of the election. The county board of elections counted 332 remaining absentee by mail ballots and approved 175 provisional ballots. While the ballots did not significantly impact any races, the results show the remaining absentee by mail and provisional ballots accepted were relatively split among Democrat and Republican races.

President Donald Trump received an increase of 244 votes following the counting of remaining ballots on Thursday, which brings his support to 49,297 votes in Rowan County. President-Elect Joe Biden received an additional 225 votes, which brings his total votes to 23,114.

The gubernatorial race between Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican challenger Dan Forest mirrored the presidential race increase. Cooper received an additional 224 votes, bringing his total to 25,473. Forest received 228 additional votes, bringing his total to 46,676 votes.

With turnout data provided by the board dating back to 1978, Rowan County’s turnout for the 2020 elections remains the highest on record. Final results show 75.59% of the county’s 97,443 registered voters cast a vote for the general election. That reflects to 73,662 votes cast.

The next-highest turnout was for the presidential election in 1984 when former President Ronald Reagan was re-elected. That year, 75.28%, or 38,124 Rowan Countians cast a vote in that election.

During the public comment portion of the meeting on Friday, local resident Emily Perry thanked the county board of elections for their work, which resulted in “nothing but positive news” about how the election went in the county and “an awesome outpouring of love and support” from the community.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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