DOBSON — Typically one of the more overlooked branches of local government, the Surry County Board of Elections was relatively showered with attention Monday as visitors descended on the office to observe the post-election process.
Controversial for many reasons, last Tuesday’s general election included several hotly contested races, the most notably that for North Carolina’s governor.
Unofficial results show Attorney General Roy Cooper defeating Republican incumbent Pat McCrory by about 5,000 votes.
On Monday, local staffers began the post-election process of sample precinct audits, reviewing provisional ballots and collecting absentee ballots.
Susan Jarrell, director of the local board, explained that the high-profile election didn’t dictate the office’s post-election procedures.
“It’s the same procedure we use as any election,” Jarrell said. “We’re just being watched this time.”
Every county conducts a sample hand-to-eye count of ballots in randomly selected precincts and one-stop locations to confirm results tabulated by machine, according to information provided by the N.C. Board of Elections.
In Surry County, the two randomly chosen precincts included the one-stop voting site in Mount Airy and specified a double-check of the presidential election.
“That’s our largest one-stop site,” Jarrell said. “We anticipate we will be going on until late Thursday.”
In a back room filled with stored printer cartridges and voting signs, Tracy Leftwich, Hannah Hambrick, George Hiett and Linda Haney set about the painstaking process.
Leftwich read the results from a scrolled printout issued by a voting machine.
Hambrick watched Leftwich, and Hiett and Haney each kept a separate tally of the results.
“Oh we just love it,” Leftwich joked about the work. “It’s tedious and it’s slow, but it’s something that has to be done after any election. I’ve done this many, many times. It always adds up.”
In a conference room on the other side of the office, a similar group followed the same procedure for the other precinct.
Though counties must conduct their hand-to-eye counts in public, it’s rare that members of the public take advantage of that right, Jarrell said.
David Crawford, a local resident and, as he put it, “known cohort of the democratic party,” dropped by Monday to observe.
“I’m just curious,” he said. “I’m retired and I had some friends that just wanted to feel comfortable that the process is done the way it’s supposed to do.”
Though the governor’s race was of top concern, “I don’t view this process as a particularly partisan process,” he said. “The whole pre-election casting doubt whether the election is fair is really dangerous. I think people have to have confidence the election system is fair.”
Provisional, absentee ballots
The review of provisional ballots, which began at 1 p.m., drew a bigger crowd that included N.C. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-57, of Guilford County, and Ryan Butler, a Greensboro attorney.
Harrison said she and Butler were part of a team of Democratic Party volunteers sent by Cooper to every county in the state.
“We want to make sure all votes are counted accurately,” she said, explaining that a few votes per county could make the difference in the governor’s race.
Harrison and Crawford conversed briefly in the election office before the provisional review began.
“I feel confident these people up here are running a straight ship,” Crawford said.
“We didn’t mean to imply by our presence that we thought otherwise,” Harrison said. “Hopefully this is just a chance to visit Surry County.”
The provisional ballot review consisted of Jarrell reading the names of those on the ballot and the reason the ballot had been submitted provisionally.
Members of the board, Dwayne Carter, Karen Tate and Angela Crews, either approved or denied the 412 ballots, which will be counted later this week.
Six members of the public, which included Surry County Republican Party chair Dan Kiger, Edwin Johnson and James Freeman, as well as Crawford, Harrison, Butler, sat in the audience, following along and marking off a manifest.
Though unused to it, Jarrell seemed unshaken by the attention.
“We’re proud of what we do here,” she said.
According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, county boards of elections will certify results at public meetings held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18. and statewide results for all federal, statewide, multi-district and judicial contests will be certified at a public meeting held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Results in each contest are not considered official until that date.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.