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County Boards of Elections Begin Regular Voter List Maintenance Processes
RALEIGH, N.C. – In 2021, county boards of elections across North Carolina will conduct several important and required processes designed to keep the state’s voter rolls accurate and up to date.
These routine processes are required by state and federal laws. Accurate voter rolls are maintained by removing voters who have moved or died or are otherwise ineligible to vote in that jurisdiction.
Voter roll list maintenance is important because it ensures ineligible voters are not included on poll books, reduces the possibility for poll worker error and decreases opportunities for fraud.
As a result of these processes, the number of North Carolina voter registrations will decrease in the coming months. As of January 9, nearly 7.2 million voters were registered in the state.
[See Voter Registration Statistics]
[See “Maintaining the Voter Registration Database in North Carolina.” Updated July 27, 2017]
“The removal of voters who have moved and are no longer eligible to vote in that jurisdiction is a routine and important aspect of elections administration,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Before any voter’s registration is canceled, the county boards of elections attempt to contact the voter to allow them to confirm or update their registration.”
The following are details about three of the many list maintenance processes the county boards of elections will complete in 2021:
Biennial List Maintenance (No-contact process)
In the early part of every odd-numbered year, if a county board of elections has had no contact with a voter for two federal election cycles – a total of four years – and the voter has not voted during that time, it will send the voter a forwardable address confirmation mailing. The voter will be required to return the confirmation mailing within 30 days.
If the voter does not return the mailing, or the U.S. Postal Service returns it to the county board as undeliverable, then the voter’s record will be marked “inactive” in the state’s voter registration database. Inactive voters are still registered voters. If an inactive voter shows up to vote, the person will be asked to verify their address and update it, if necessary.
County boards will send mailings this year to voters with whom there has been no contact since October 12, 2018. Counties have started printing and mailing these notices, which must go out by April 15. More than 450,000 of these mailings are expected to be sent out statewide in 2021.
The registrations of these voters will be canceled if they do not confirm their registration by 2023.
Removal of Inactive Voters
County boards of elections also have begun to remove certain “inactive” voters from the rolls. Voters will be removed from registration lists this year after being sent a no-contact mailing in 2016. Any voter removed in this way would not have had any contact with their county board of elections for four federal election cycles, not voted in any election during that time and not responded to a confirmation mailing.
The State Board estimates about 380,000 inactive voters will be removed from the voter rolls in 2021.
Any removed registrant must be reinstated if the voter appears to vote and gives oral or written affirmation that the voter has not moved out of the county and has maintained residence continuously within the county. These voters’ votes will be counted absent evidence that they moved out of the county.
Voters may check their registration status at any time using the State Board’s Voter Search Tool: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/.
National Change of Address (NCOA) Mailings
In January and July of each year, the State Board provides the 100 county boards of elections with change of address data from the U.S. Postal Service. County boards must send voters in this dataset postcard mailings to the new address to confirm whether they have an unreported change of address for voting purposes.
These mailings allow voters to update their names or addresses within a county or notify the board of elections of a move outside of that county. The voter is asked to respond to the mailing within 30 days. If the voter does not respond, the voter will be mailed a traditional address confirmation notice to their existing mailing address.
If the voter does not respond to that notice within 30 days, the voter’s registration status will be changed to “inactive.”
If a voter is deceased, a near relative may use the mailing to report the death so the county board can cancel the registration.
Additional List Maintenance Efforts
N.C. elections officials also routinely remove voters who have died from the voter rolls. Death notifications are made available by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. County boards of elections also regularly remove voters who are convicted of felonies, using records from the N.C. Department of Public Safety and U.S. attorneys’ offices.
To learn more about registering to vote in North Carolina, visit: https://www.ncsbe.gov/registering.
N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles customers may register or update their registration online here: https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offices-services/online/Pages/voter-registration-application.aspx.
Transmitting a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot:
This notice may be used in conjunction with the federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB). Covered military & overseas voters seeking to vote by absentee ballot may use the FWAB to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and vote an official military-overseas ballot. When using the FWAB to register to vote, and/or request an absentee ballot, please transmit your signed and completed FWAB no later than 5:00 p.m. on the day before Election Day. If submitted later than this day and time, your absentee ballot will not be counted. Federal write-in absentee ballots are available at www.NCSBE.gov. You may also request a regular absentee ballot by using the federal postcard application (FPCA), available at www.FVAP.gov. A regular ballot can be mailed, faxed or emailed to you. You may return the FWAB or a regular absentee ballot by mail, secure fax (1-919-715-0351) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Marking a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot:
When marking a FWAB, for each office for which you wish to vote, write in either a candidate's name or political party designation. For ballot measures or referenda, write either “YES” (you are for the ballot measure or referendum) or “NO” (you are against the ballot measure or referendum). In a primary, if you are registered as Democrat, Republican or Libertarian, for partisan contests, you may only vote for the candidates of the party for which you are affiliated. You are also eligible to vote for non-partisan contests. If you are registered as unaffiliated (“independent”), in a primary, you may choose to vote for the partisan contests of one of the parties or you may choose to vote for non-partisan contests only. Please contact your local board of elections to confirm your party affiliation or voter registration status.
Please check the website for the NC State Board of Elections (www.NCSBE.gov) for additional information on military-overseas absentee voting.
Tools to Request and Track Your Absentee Ballot
The State Board has collaborated with Democracy Live to offer registered voters in North Carolina the option to request a ballot online via the Absentee Ballot Request Portal. The agency has also launched BallotTrax, a free service where voters can track the status of their absentee ballot.
Request Your Absentee Ballot Online
In 2020, all registered North Carolina voters, including voters serving in the military or living overseas, can request an absentee ballot online through the Absentee Ballot Request Portal.
The Absentee Ballot Request Portal:
- Allows registered North Carolina voters to securely request an absentee by-mail ballot completely online. The request may be made by the voter or their near relative or legal guardian. The voter’s county board of elections will mail the ballot to the voter.
- Helps avoid duplicate requests by informing voters of existing absentee requests, and allows users to submit subsequent requests to update information on a previously submitted request.
- Allows military or overseas voters to request and return their ballots through the portal.
Request your absentee ballot online:
Track Your Absentee Ballot
Absentee by-mail voters in North Carolina can find the status of their ballot in three different ways: through BallotTrax, through the State Board’s Voter Search Tool, and by contacting their county board of elections.
Voters who vote by mail may use BallotTrax to track the status of their ballot from when it is mailed to when it is received by the county board of elections.
BallotTrax allows NC voters with valid absentee ballot requests to create an account. Once the account is created, voters will be able to:
- Log in to view the status of their absentee by-mail request and ballot. This includes confirmation that the county board of elections has received the request, that the ballot has been mailed to the voter and that the completed ballot has been received by the county board of elections.
- Learn if their ballot cannot be accepted because of issues such as a missing signature or witness information. If this occurs, the county board of elections will provide information to the voter on how to correct the issue.
- Sign up for email, text, and/or voice alerts for status updates.
Voters will see one of several statuses, including Requested, when an absentee request form is received by the County Board of Election, and Accepted, when the returned ballot is accepted by the county board of elections. Accepted generally means the county board of elections has received the ballot, the return envelope has no apparent issues, and the ballot will be counted. If the county board of elections subsequently finds an issue (the envelope is opened and there is no ballot inside, for example) then that status will change and the voter will be contacted. Click here for more information on creating an account in BallotTrax.
Voter Search Tool
When a county board of elections marks a ballot as Accepted, that information will appear in that voter’s record available through the State Board’s Voter Search Tool. Because absentee ballot request information is confidential under state law until the ballot is accepted or until Election Day, absentee request information does not appear in the Voter Search Tool.