Provisional process begins

Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 6, 2014

Provisional ballots could play a key role in determining the outcome of a Pike County race.
When voting ended on Tuesday, incumbent state Rep. Alan Boothe held a slim, 95-vote lead over Democratic challenger Joel Williams, leaving both candidates in limbo until the provisional ballots are counted and certified.
“We have provisional ballots in every election,” explained Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen, who is the chief election official in the county.
Provisional ballots are those cast conditionally at a polling place if an individual’s registration status or eligibility to vote cannot be adequately determined at the precinct. The ballots are separated from the others at the precinct and must be independently verified by the Board of Registrars before they can be counted.
“We have 35 boxes that we report in an election,” Allen said. “Thirty three of those are from the physical polling places or precincts. One box is our absentee ballots. The last one is provisional ballots.”
The results reported on Tuesday night – 5,489 for Boothe and 5,394 for Williams – combined all eligible boxes in Pike and Dale counties except the provisional ballots.
“Each polling place has a provisional ballot box,” Allen said. “If a vote comers to the polling place to vote and there’s a question about whether she’s registered or at the right precinct, the inspector can allow that person to vote a provisional ballot. It’s the same ballot everyone receives, only it’s placed into the sealed box to be reviewed by the Board of Registrars before it is counted.”
Those 33 provisional ballot boxes are returned after the polls close and kept under lock and key by the sheriff or his appointee until presented to the Board of Registrars the next day.
“This morning, they’ve opened those boxes and will start the process of verifying the provisional ballots,” Allen said Wednesday.
The provisional ballots are placed inside a sealed envelope, which contains registration information on the individual who cast the vote. Members of the Board of Registrars –  Benny Scarbrough, Deborah Teal and Phyllis Swindall – have until Nov. 12 to determine if the voters are registered and eligible to vote. All ballots are sealed inside individual envelopes and, once determined to be legitimate, will be set aside to be counted on Nov. 12. “At that time, we’ll open each of the envelopes and manually add the totals of each ballot to the results we have,” Allen said.
The same process will take place in Dale County, which is also a part of District 89. The results will be certified on Nov. 14 and reported to the Secretary of State’s office as certified.
If the provisional process drops Boothe’s lead to fewer than 56 votes, state law mandates a manual recount of the ballots, Allen said. If his lead remains 56 votes or more, he will be declared the winner of the race.
On Tueaday, Boothe was celebrating his victory, tentatively awaiting the final results. “All I know tonight is that I’ve been told I won by 95 votes,” Boothe said. “Any time that you win, you should be pleased and I’m pleased.”
His challenger, Williams, was “holding his breath.” “I started this in February and I still don’t know how it’s going to turn out … These are things beyond my control and beyond what I contemplated … so I’ve got to tread water and hold my breath another week.”

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