The voting has begun. The North Carolina State Board of Elections reported Tuesday that over 900 ballots sent out by local elections offices on Friday of last week (September 4th) have already been returned.
Those mail-in ballots are one part of North Carolina's absentee voting. Actually, any vote cast on any day other than the actual Election Day (this time Nov. 3rd) is considered an absentee vote.
Years ago, North Carolina required that to vote absentee you had to have a valid reason why you couldn't vote on Election Day. That's still the case in some states, although the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential danger of going to the polls and becoming infected is being argued in courts as a possible valid reason to vote absentee. That argument, of course, doesn't apply to North Carolina, where you don't need a reason to vote absentee instead of on Election Day.
This year, for the first time in history, absentee voting may exceed the number of votes cast on Election Day.
As of Thursday morning (Sept. 10th), the Lincoln County Elections Office had received over 4,500 absentee ballot requests. Elections Director Brad Putnam says the local office is receiving 100-150 requests each day.
The Lincoln Herald talked earlier this week with Putnam and with Judy Caudill, chair of the Elections Board. Both expressed confidence that the election in Lincoln County and North Carolina will be handled efficiently and fairly.
President Trump suggested last Thursday that North Carolina voters go to the polls on Election Day to make sure their mail-in absentee ballots had been received. Putnam and Caudill said that isn't necessary and will only cause delays at the polling places. "We already had to change some of our locations because of the need to maintain social distancing," Caudill said. "Once someone has mailed in an absentee ballot, after giving it time to have been delivered by the Postal Service, they can go online and confirm that it has been received." The online portal for that purpose is at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/. When you enter your name and birth year, it will open another portal. Clicking on your name there will provide you with a sample ballot, your Election Day polling place, and under Absentee Request, a confirmation of your ballot having been received.
When we talk about polling places, it's important to note that those who vote early, during One-Stop Voting, are also considered to be voting absentee. During early voting, you can vote at any of the One-Stop locations in your county of residence; you don't have to vote at the one closest to where you live. If you vote on Election Day, you must vote at your precinct polling place.
Early voting is called One-Stop Voting because you can not only vote, if you aren't yet registered, you can register to vote at the same time during early voting--you can't do that on Election Day. Early voting begins Thursday October 15th and will continue through Saturday October 31st (Halloween Day). This year, Lincoln County will have four early voting locations--the Board of Elections Office on Salem Church Road, the Wiliam Lentz Gym at Betty Ross Park on S. Madison Street in Lincolnton, the East Lincoln Community Center on Optimist Club Road, and the new West Lincoln Branch Library on Westwinds Road just off Shoal Road near West Lincoln High School. The western location was changed this year; it was previously at the North Brook Community Center. All of those locations will be open from 8 AM until 7:30 PM Monday-Friday and 8 AM - 6 PM on Saturday except October 31st when they'll close at 3 PM. Unlike some other area counties, Lincoln County will NOT have Sunday early voting.
The Lincoln Herald will publish a link to locations and times for all early voting locations in Lincoln, Catawba, Gaston & Cleveland counties on the day the early voting begins. You can see the Lincoln County locations and times at
It is our intention to help voters get to know who's running for the various offices and more information about the candidates. We have already published articles detailing the candidates for the Lincoln County Board of Education. We had intended to hold a Meet the Candidates night at the Lincoln Cultural Center in early October, but we've scrapped that plan because of the pandemic. Instead, we'll be sending out an invitation to all the candidates next week to supply us with a video of up to five minutes during which they can introduce themselves, tell something about themselves and why they believe you should vote for them. We'll post those videos to YouTube and include links to them in articles about the various races.
If you are planning to vote by mail, you have until October 27th to request a ballot. You can do that online at https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home. You can also get an absentee ballot request form from the local Elections Office (someone else can pick up the form for you, but you must complete it and return it to the Elections Office (you can mail it or take it there). Your absentee ballot will be mailed to you. You then have to complete it, have a witness sign to confirm that it was you who voted, and mail it or bring it to the Elections Office. For it to be counted, it must be returned by 5 PM on Election Day.
If you make your request now and mail in your ballot quickly, there should be no problem getting it there on time. If you don't mail it until a few days before Election Day, you should take it to the window at the post office and ask them to date and time stamp it. The Postal Service doesn't routinely date and time stamp mail. Those absentee (mail-in) ballots received by 5 PM Election Day will be counted; those received after Election Day will NOT unless they have been date and time stamped prior to 5 PM Election Day. If your ballot is mailed just before Election Day, it will still be counted IF it is date and time stamped before 5 PM Electin Day and if it is received by Friday of Election Day week (Nov. 6th). If it is received after that, it will not be counted.
North Carolina has an excellent history of maintaining election integrity. A former mayor of Charlotte was actually arrested when he voted while on probation for a felony and therefore not eligible to vote. An incident of absentee ballot 'harvesting' (which is illegal) resulted in charges and a new election for the 9th Congressional district seat in Congress in 2018. In 2016, someone complained that a person who had voted in Lincoln County had also voted in Mecklenburg. The names were the same, but it turned out that the father, who lived in Lincoln and the son, who lived in Mecklenburg, shared the same name except for 'senior' and 'junior' as an added suffix. Both were eligible to vote in their respective counties.
Will it take forever to get the results? In years past, those absentee votes by mail haven't been entered into the machines until the evening of Election Day. The Elections Board has discussed the possibility of entering them earlier this year--at Elections Board meetings, so they can be tablulated quickly on election night.
In years past, many people would gather at the Elections Office in the Citizens Center (and before that the courthouse) to await the local results. That's not only unnecessary, it won't be allowed this year. The Elections Office is also a precinct polling place now; and as soon as the reports come in from the precincts they are entered on the NC Board of Elections website. The Lincoln Herald will provide a link so you can watch the local returns for your own county, other counties, and the state by choosing various drop-down menu options on election night. You'll get the results there as fast as anywhere.
It's still over a month and a half away, but on Election Day, the polling places for several precincts have been changed. The Salem precinct polling place has been permanently moved to the Elections Office. Other temporary moves for this election include:
- Buffalo Shoals to North 321 Fire Department
- Cowans Ford to Catawba Springs Elementary School
- Denver to Rock Springs Elementary Schoool
- Lowesville West to East Lincoln Middle School
As noted earlier, you can check to make sure you're registered, find your precinct polling place, and much more on the NCSBE website (see link above).