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Good to Know: How a 95-year-old N.C. woman got her vote back

At 95, Virginia Jones prides herself on 70-plus years of voting. As far as she recalls, she's never missed an election — at least not since she moved back to Durham, North Carolina, in 1998.

So she bristled at the letter from the Durham County Board of Elections, denying her application for a mail-in ballot. According to its records, she was not a registered voter.

It turned out Jones' name got mistakenly removed from the voter rolls thanks to a clerical error. A staff member accidentally scratched Jones' name while trying to remove a recently deceased voter with the same name and one year's difference in birth date, said Daniel Lassiter, election manager.

Though Jones' voting status is restored, her confidence is not. She asks that all North Carolina voters consider her experience as a cautionary tale.

"I've never before lacked confidence in the process of voting," she said in an email interview with The News & Observer, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. "But now with the pandemic, dissing of the Postal Service, and the many messages from on high delivering confusion, I'm no longer as confident."

Surge in absentee

More than 1 million people in North Carolina have already requested absentee ballots, more than 10 times the number from the 2016 election.

Despite the heavy load, election officials in Wake County report no widespread problems either with mailing or receiving them, and no such reports have turned up statewide.

This stands in contrast to warnings from President Donald Trump, who has urged North Carolina voters to try and vote twice and avoid their ballots being thrown out or destroyed.

Election officials here stress that voting twice is illegal, and they discourage voters to check their registrations in-person on Election Day as Trump instructed.

In Durham, Lassiter said Jones would have received a provisional ballot if the mistake hadn't been caught in time. Voters get such ballots when questions arise about their status, and election workers research them being giving a final count.

"Provisional voting is fail-safe voting," according to the state elections website. "State law mandates that no person shall be denied the option to vote a provisional ballot. In no circumstance should a voter be turned away."

'Check your registration'

But in Durham, Jones cites special circumstances that would have further complicated the mix-up.

She lives in a retirement community, which has been on a COVID-19 lockdown for many months, and she no longer drives, making a trip to the polls unworkable. She describes herself as "challenged electronically," and her diminished hearing makes the telephone problematic.

Had she not pursued her own registration, she fears her status might have been critically shaken.

So she leaves fellow voters with this lesson learned: "I cannot stress enough — check your registration."

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