North Carolina becomes the first state in the nation to begin voting for the November 3rd General Election. County Elections Offices will start sending out absentee mail ballots Friday (Sept. 4th).
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, elections officials are expecting big increase in absentee voting. It's North Carolina's version of voting by mail. Years ago, if you wanted to vote absentee, you had to have a reason why you couldn't vote on Election Day. That was back before Early Voting (which is considered another form of absentee voting) began. Now, you don't need a reason to vote absentee; you just request an absentee ballot, the Elections Office sends it to you, and you either take it back to them or send it in by mail.
Four years ago, about 21,000 voters in North Carolina cast mail-in ballots. This year, 618,000 people have already requested absentee ballots.
President Trump, who has been critical of voting by mail, suggested in Wilmington Thursday that people vote by mail and then vote again in person.
That led the state elections board to post on its website "DOUBLE VOTING IS ILLEGAL." It’s a Class I felony for a voter to make any attempt to vote more than once in an election.
Vice President Pence, in a visit to Raleigh, said that voters who vote by mail should also go to the polls on Election Day to make sure their absentee ballot was received, but the state board said that's not necessary and will only cause longer lines on Election Day and possibly help spread the coronavirus.
The state elections board said after you request a mail-in ballot, you should 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 elections office. When your ballot is accepted by your county board of elections, that information will be posted in your voter record.
Under state law, a voter’s absentee ballot request information is confidential, not public record until the ballot is returned or until Election Day. Therefore, ballot request information will not appear in your voter record through the Voter Search Tool, as it did in the past; but if you want to track your ballot through the mail, the NC Board of Elections says a new BallotTrax portal is coming soon to its website, and you can see there if your ballot has been received.
If you request a mail-in (absentee) ballot but decide to vote in person instead, that is not illegal, so long as you didn't return the absentee ballot. In North Carolina, an entry is made into voting records whenever you vote, whether by mail, during early voting, or on Election Day.
If you want to vote by mail, you need to submit an absentee ballot request form. They're available at the Elections Office, or you can download one online, complete it and send or take it to the local office. You can also use an online request (https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home) to make your request.
The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is 5 PM Tuesday October 27th, but it's best to request it as soon as possible and to send it in right away. The dealine for returning that completed absentee ballot is 5 PM on Election Day (Tuesday November 3rd). If your ballot is mailed by that deadline, it will count even if received after Election Day--but only if you take it to the window at the Post Office and have it date and time stamped--most mail doesn't get a date and time stamp, and if it doesn't have one, it has to be received by Election Day or it won't be counted. Those that are received by Friday of the first week of November (if date and time stamped proving they were mailed before the 5 PM Nov. 3rd deadline) will be counted. Any received after that won't.
The Lincoln Herald will be publishing multiple articles about the Nov. 3rd election--telling about the candidates in the various races, providing information from the candidates themselves to help you decide for whom you want to vote.
Because of the pandemic, we won't be holding our Meet the Candidates night that we had planned to hold in early October at the Lincoln Cultural Center. The East Lincoln Betterment Association will be doing a Candidates Forum with the candidates for School Board, Lincoln County Commissioner, and NC House. We had been told previously that it would be recorded by Chris Ritchie of Lincolnton Live! but they decided to cut their cost by doing it only by Zoom. The question and answer sessions will be September 26th & 27th, but you won't be able to see them then. They'll be recorded and available later. We'll post details when available.
We'll be providing those candidates and others with an opportunity to speak directly to the voters by providing us with a video they record which we'll post on YouTube and include in articles about the specific races.
Who are the candidates this November? CLICK HERE to see a sample ballot for the City of Lincolnton. With the exception of the City Council races, which will only be on ballots for city residents, the ballots for all of Lincoln County will be the same.