Absentee Ballot

Workers at the Durham County Board of Elections process absentee ballot requests while maintaining safety during the coronavirus pandemic in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
File, Ben McKeown / For WUNC

North Carolina issued new guidance Monday for counties to proceed with dealing with more than 10,000 deficient absentee ballots, which have been in limbo because of ongoing court battles over a witness requirement for voting by mail.

An unmarked envelope and absentee ballot for a voter in Orange County.
Amy Jeffries / WUNC

A lawyer for North Carolina's State Board of Elections said Friday that time is running out to process 10,000 absentee ballots with incomplete witness information and other errors after state and federal judges put additional freezes on the process.

An aircraft carrier in open ocean pictured from the top from left
US Navy

Voting by mail is nothing new for military service members. Deployed worldwide at any of the nearly 800 foreign bases, military personnel are offered some exceptions during the elections. Some vote by fax from a battleship, and many sent their ballots weeks ago, after receiving them earlier than most voters, at least 45 days before the election. 

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Updated at 7 p.m.

A federal judge ordered North Carolina on Wednesday to ensure that absentee ballots have a witness signature in a mixed ruling that allows voters to fix other more minor problems without casting a new ballot from scratch.

Early voting starts this week in North Carolina, and the pandemic has forced many people to re-think how they’re casting their ballots. As accounts trickle in of voters across the country navigating hurdles with early and mail-in voting, concerns persist over how ballots will be counted, and if this election will be fair and accurate.

Host Dave DeWitt talks with Rusty Jacobs, political reporter for WUNC, about the process for absentee voting in North Carolina and why Granville County is helping bring the swing this election. 

Dave also reflects on being a parent to a child in college and monitoring COVID-19 dashboards for campuses, sometimes obsessively.
 


Board of Elections absentee north carolina vote
Gerry Broome / AP

Weeks from the election, three of North Carolina's most populous counties are often taking two weeks or more to send absentee ballots out to voters who request them, an Associated Press analysis shows.

An unmarked envelope and absentee ballot for a voter in Orange County.
Amy Jeffries / WUNC

Tens of thousands of absentee ballots already returned by North Carolina voters have been processed without issue. But a much smaller number has been set aside – held up while elections officials eagerly await guidance on how to cure deficiencies like missing witness information.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether North Carolina is providing voters sufficient opportunity to fix absentee ballots that arrive without full information on who witnessed it.

Absentee ballot north carolina election
Gerry Broome / AP

A federal judge has blocked updated North Carolina absentee voting rules that gave voters more leeway to fix witness problems and extended the period when elections boards could accept mailed-in ballots.

U.S. District Judge James Dever issued a temporary restraining order on Saturday, halting the updated rules that were hammered out as part of a legal settlement with voting rights advocates.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

A North Carolina judge on Friday approved a newly reached settlement that will extend the time for counties to collect absentee ballots and make it easier for people to correct missing witness information on their ballot.

Absentee ballot north carolina election
Gerry Broome / AP

A federal judge said Wednesday that a North Carolina elections board directive making it easier for voters to fix witness deficiencies in absentee ballots may violate a previous ruling he made and has ordered state lawyers to explain the changes to him.

Board of Elections absentee north carolina vote
Gerry Broome / AP

It didn't take long for a GOP candidate to exploit the resignations of the two Republican members of North Carolina's State Board of Elections.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

The two Republican members of North Carolina's state elections board have resigned after signing off on a legal settlement to alter absentee ballot rules for this fall.

Workers at the Durham County Board of Elections process absentee ballot requests while maintaining safety during the coronavirus pandemic in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
File, Ben McKeown / For WUNC

North Carolina election officials agreed Tuesday that mail-in absentee ballots returned this fall with deficient information can be fixed without forcing the voter to fill out a new blank ballot. The change, if it stands, would likely yield an upward tick in the number of counted ballots in this presidential battleground state.

Tiffany Tertipes / Creative Commons/ Unsplash

More than a tenth of registered voters in North Carolina have requested absentee ballots this year — significantly higher than in previous elections.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Nearly 10,000 North Carolinians had their mail-in ballots accepted in the first week of voting, according to data released Friday by the State Board of Elections.

Absentee ballots for the upcoming November election have already been mailed out to voters in North Carolina, and voters in some two dozen additional states can expect theirs in the coming few weeks. Because of the coronavirus pandemic a record number of Americans are expected to cast their ballots by mail this year.

The North Carolina General Assembly recently enacted legislation to ease absentee-by-mail voting this year and to make polls safer for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The front of the North Carolina Legislature building with an American flag and a North Carolina flag out front with two trees on either side
Jayron32

The North Carolina legislature passed the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 Thursday, which allocates the nearly $1 billion left of federal CARES Act money. 

Tiffany Tertipes / Unsplash / creative commons

North Carolina voters continue to request absentee-by-mail ballots this year at a record pace. Requests are now 15 times ahead of where the number was at the same time four years ago, during the last presidential election cycle. They're expected to surpass 500,000 this weekend.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Interest in absentee-by-mail voting is way up this year in North Carolina. Voters are submitting absentee ballot request forms at a record pace — requests statewide are already 10 times ahead of where they were four years ago — and elections officials are working hard to keep up.

Workers at the Durham County Board of Elections process absentee ballot requests while maintaining safety during the coronavirus pandemic in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
File, Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Few people, if anyone, track voting data in North Carolina more closely than Michael Bitzer. The Catawba College political scientist posts near daily upates on his Old North State Politics blog, crunching the latest numbers from elections officials across the state. And Bitzer's steady stream of tweets make something very clear: 2020 is shaping up to be very different from previous presidential election years.

This week: American political history was made as Joe Biden introduced U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate in the presidential race. Her presence on the ticket might impact voter turnout in North Carolina. Then again, it might not.

Meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest dropped a lawsuit against his gubernatorial opponent, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Mitch Kokai of the John Locke Foundation and Rob Schofield from NC Policy Watch discuss those developments, plus: what Postmaster General Louis DeJoy means for 2020, and signs of relief for North Carolinians who are still out of work.


This week:  Governor Cooper criticizes President Trump and Lt. Governor Forest over their pandemic responses. And close to 150,000 voters have requested absentee ballots for the November election. This week a federal judge ruled that a witness requirement will remain in place, however, voters will have a chance to correct administrative errors on their ballots. Becki Gray and Rob Schofield discuss Cooper's criticisms, the latest in mail-in balloting, as well as a troubling video released by the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department. 


Absentee voter ballot envelope
Flickr / Nadya Peek

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many North Carolina voters are choosing to cast their ballot via mail. Over 90,000 North Carolinians have requested a mail-in absentee ballot so far, nearly five times as many requests as this time in 2016.