State Board Launches Absentee Ballot Request Portal
RALEIGH, N.C. – Starting today, September 1, 2020, North Carolina voters may request an absentee ballot completely online – another way state election officials are improving the voting process in 2020.
“At the State Board, our goal is to ensure all voters can cast a ballot, whether in person or by mail,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “The Absentee Ballot Request Portal will streamline voting by mail for voters who choose this voting option.”
The State Board has collaborated with Democracy Live to introduce the online Absentee Ballot Request Portal to assist any North Carolina registered voter in requesting an absentee ballot. The State Board website, NCSBE.gov, includes a link to the portal. The portal also allows military and overseas (UOCAVA) voters to request and return their absentee ballot online.
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.
Voters who are not registered will be provided a link to learn more about how to register in North Carolina.
To request a ballot through the portal, voters must verify their identity by providing their first and last names, date of birth, county of registration and additional personally identifying information for verification purposes. Voters will sign and submit the form online. If a voter provides their email address, they will receive a confirmation email after the request is submitted through the portal.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 27, 2020. However, elections officials strongly encourage voters to request a ballot before then to ensure absentee ballot return deadlines can be met.
For military and overseas (UOCAVA) voters…
Military and overseas (UOCAVA) voters may use the portal to complete a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which serves as a voter registration application and an absentee ballot request form.
UOCAVA voters with an eligible request on file may access and return their ballot using the secure UOCAVA portal. Only UOCAVA voters may receive and return their ballot through the portal.
When will ballots be mailed?
County boards of elections will begin sending absentee ballots to voters who request them on Friday, September 4. If you have already requested a ballot but do not receive it by September 15-20, contact your county board of elections office.
“We encourage voters to be patient, as county boards of elections are processing an unprecedented number of absentee ballot requests this year,” Brinson Bell said.
Through August 31, voters had submitted more than 560,000 absentee ballot requests, 16 times more requests than county boards of elections had received by this time in 2016.
Statement About Absentee Ballot Security in North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. – The following is a statement from the State Board of Elections office about the security of absentee voting by mail in North Carolina:
Across North Carolina, election officials have worked for many months to ensure accessible, safe and accurate elections in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are 12 reasons why absentee by-mail voting is safe and secure in North Carolina:
1. Election officials send ballots only to registered voters who request them using official request forms.
2. The voter or their near relative must fill out and sign the request form. Required information includes the voter's date of birth and the voter's driver's license number or last four digits of their Social Security number.
3. Fraudulently or falsely completing the form is a Class I felony.
4. In 2020, voters must vote their ballot in the presence of one witness. The witness must sign the absentee return envelope, certifying that the voter marked their ballot and is the registered voter submitting the ballot.
5. Only the voter or their near relative or legal guardian may return the ballot. County boards of elections keep a log of who drops off absentee ballots.
6. Upon return, the county board of elections reviews the absentee envelope to ensure compliance with the legal requirements.
7. Once the ballot is accepted, that voter is marked in the system as having voted in that election. If that voter tries to vote in person, poll workers will know the person has already submitted an absentee ballot.
8. Data on who has requested absentee ballots is now confidential until Election Day. This reduces the ability of third parties to attempt to tamper with ballots, as they will not know who has requested a ballot or when ballots are sent out.
9. Criminal penalties have been increased for absentee voting fraud-related offenses.
10. Many people are watching North Carolina’s absentee voting process, including candidates, political parties, county boards of elections, political and data scientists and the media. If there are anomalies or questionable activities, they will be reported to election officials.
11. The State Board Investigations Division, which has a dedicated team of experienced investigators, investigates credible allegations of election fraud and refers cases to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence.
12. The State Board conducts post-election audits which will catch inconsistencies which can then be investigated by the board or the Investigations Division.
State Board Releases FAQs on Absentee by Mail Voting in North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. – Through Sunday, August 9, North Carolina voters had submitted 163,374 requests for absentee by-mail ballots for the 2020 general election, more than seven times as many as the 22,074 requests submitted at the same time in 2016.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina elections officials are preparing for a significant increase in ballots cast by mail in 2020. The State Board of Elections and county boards of elections across North Carolina are getting many questions about the absentee voting process.
To help voters understand the process, the State Board is releasing “FAQs: Voting by Mail in North Carolina in 2020.”
“With health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more North Carolinians are choosing to vote by mail this year,” said Karen Brinson Bell, State Board executive director. “Our goal is for every voter to have the information they need to make sure their vote counts in 2020.”
The extensive set of questions and answers, which can be found at NCSBE.gov, covers key aspects of absentee by mail voting in North Carolina: requesting a ballot, completing the ballot, returning the ballot, and absentee by mail voting security.
Requesting a ballot:
Any registered voter in North Carolina may vote an absentee ballot by mail. The deadline to request a ballot for the November election is 5 p.m. October 27, 2020. Ballots will start being sent to voters who request them on September 4.
To request an absentee ballot, fill out a 2020 State Absentee Ballot Request Form, available for download at NCSBE.gov, or pick one up at your county board of elections office. The request form comes with detailed instructions and is available in Spanish.
Return the completed form to your county board of elections by fax, email, mail, or in person. Starting September 1, 2020, voters will also be able to request a ballot using an online portal.
Completing the ballot:
For the 2020 general election, only one witness is required for an absentee ballot. The voter is required to mark the ballot in the presence of the witness. The witness should not observe so closely that they can see how the voter votes.
Any registered voter may request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT). A MAT is a group appointed by a county board of elections to assist voters with mail-in absentee voting. To schedule a MAT visit, contact your county board of elections.
Returning the ballot:
For civilian absentee voters, the container-return envelope with the voted ballot enclosed must be returned to the county board of elections by 5 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will counted if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail no later than 5 p.m. November 6, three days after the election.
Absentee by mail voting security:
Numerous safeguards are ingrained in the absentee voting process. Absentee ballots are sent only to registered voters who request them using an official State Absentee Ballot Request Form.
The request must be signed and include identifying information about the voter, including date of birth and driver’s license number or last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. Voters must vote their ballot in the presence of a witness, and that witness must sign the absentee return envelope certifying that the voter marked their ballot and is the registered voter submitting the marked ballot.
Only the voter or their near relative or legal guardian may return the ballot. Upon return, the county board of elections reviews the absentee envelope to ensure compliance with the legal requirements. Once the ballot is accepted, that voter is marked in the system as having voted in that election.
Data on who has requested absentee ballots is now confidential until Election Day. Criminal penalties have been increased for absentee voting fraud-related offenses. Many people are watching our absentee voting process, including candidates, political parties, county boards of elections, and political and data scientists. If there are anomalies or questionable activities, they will be reported to election officials.
Finally, the State Board of Elections has an Investigations Division that investigates credible allegations of elections fraud and refers cases to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence. The State Board also conducts several post-election audits which will catch inconsistencies that can then be investigated by the State Board Investigations Division.