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In North Carolina, mail-in voting requires attention to detail
Missing signatures on ballots are disqualifiers
Published Thursday, September 24, 2020 9:58 pm
by Cash Michaels | NC Black Publishers Association

Absentee mail-in ballots require signatures by the voter and a witness in order to be counted.

As of Sept. 24, there are 40 days before the Nov. 3 general election.

To all voters in North Carolina, that means you have 15 days left before the regular registration deadline, 21 before the one-stop early voting period of Oct. 15-31. There are 33 days left to request a mail-in absentee ballot, which ends Oct. 27.

However, if you do plan to vote by mail, you are urged not to wait, but to do so immediately, given that mail delays are expected, and mail-in ballots may not arrive by Election Day in time to count.

Thus far, out of 7,144,785 registered voters in North Carolina, as of Sept. 20, 930,047 mail-in absentee ballots had been requested.

All registered North Carolina voters may request a mail-in absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020 election, but, in order for them to count, they must be properly filled out, signed and witnessed.

According to the NCSBE.gov website, “After you request a ballot, please allow a week to 10 days for it to get to you. If you do not receive your ballot within that time, contact your county Board of Elections. When your ballot is accepted by your county Board of Elections, that information will be posted in your voter record.

You may request a mail-in ballot, but decide not to use it, and go vote in person instead.  You may not do both, as you can only vote once.

Voter photo identification is not required for the Nov. 3 election.

Back to mail-in voting. There has been a slew of articles in the past week noting that, with North Carolina being the first in the nation to institute mail-in absentee voting as of Sept. 17, mail-in ballots from African American voters are being rejected by the SBOE at least four times as much as those from whites.

The majority of those rejections are because of a mistake or failure to have someone fill out the witness information. The reason for this has nothing to do with color, for many young voters make the same mistake, experts note.

“We’re seeing already a lack of familiarity with the process, whether it’s signing the ballot or having the witness information completed,” Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer told the website FiveThirtyEight. “There tends to be a greater number from voters who were previously in-person voters. If you look at the numbers [from Sept. 14], the ballots denied due to incomplete witness information, 55% of those voters had voted in person in 2016.”

 Right now, the number of Black rejected ballots is less than 1,000, but that number can grow rapidly if voters are not made aware and the ballots corrected.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that does allow rejected mail-in voters to correct their mistakes once the ballot envelopes are returned.

Two of the most common mistakes are the failure to sign mail-in ballots where indicated and failure to have one witness sign where indicated.

The best advice is, once you have received your mail-in ballot, plan to have your witness ready before you fill it out.

You can either mail your ballot by Oct. 27 or drop it off at your county Board of Elections before Nov. 3. All ballots will be tracked. You can look up your ballot status (received, accepted or rejected) at www.youcanvote.org/lookup. For ballots to be accepted, they must arrive by 5 p. m. on Nov. 3, Election Day, or be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov.


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