NC Vote By Mail: Sorting Facts From Fiction
With continued concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and a national election less than three months away, record numbers of North Carolinians are planning to vote by mail. But amidst the recent swirl of partisan wrangling over the practice, questions are being raised.
WFDD’s David Ford spoke with Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer for some perspective.
On absentee ballots and vote-by-mail:
So, in North Carolina, if somebody wants to vote by mail, they use what is called absentee by mail voting or utilize an absentee by mail ballot. Vote by mail has been equated to basically the same thing in this state. But what we're starting to hear is a partisan reframing of the issue to mean absentee by mail voting is fine. But if a state sends out ballots by mail, then that leads to fraud. Now we've got five states in the country that completely use vote by mail, and they had little to no issues whatsoever with fraud. So, it's this concern that's not legitimate in terms of allegations that aren't proven — no evidence put forward for voting by mail — but in North Carolina, people are voting by mail.
On concerns expressed over voting by mail:
There can be some concerns on the voter's side. So, for example, if a voter forgets to sign the ballot or they forget to have a witness — just one witness this year to sign the ballot — then the ballot is rejected. However, if that happens with enough time, the county will turn around and send another ballot to the voter explaining what happened and hopefully the voter will correct that and resubmit the ballot. So, there are concerns, but oftentimes it's more what the voter did than necessarily what the issues of receiving and processing the ballot is.
On verifying that mail-in ballots are received and processed:
You can verify it on the State Board of Elections website starting in early September once you get your ballot after September 4, and you return it back to your county board of elections. Once it is processed it will go into a database, and that database will be available for people to search on the website for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, and you can see the status of your return ballot.
[NOTE: Voters can confirm receipt of their absentee ballot request by calling or emailing their local County Board of Elections.]
On absentee voting mailers being sent by third parties:
Right now, anything that North Carolina voters are receiving are the requests for ballots. That is different from the ballot itself. North Carolina state law allows for third parties like the North Carolina Republican Party, like the Center for Voter Information, to mail out the request forms. They have to use the state form. They cannot prefill them out for the voter. The voter has to do that. Now, when the ballots are mailed out on September 4, that comes in a security envelope. And voters should receive that blank ballot from their county board of elections and return it to their county board of elections, either by mail, or they could drop it off in person to their county board of elections office. Or when early voting starts they could go to one of the early voting sites and drop it off physically there as well.
Voters can also confirm receipt of their absentee ballot request by calling or emailing their local County Board of Elections.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include additional information on ballot request verification.