With More First-Time Absentee Voters, Some NC Ballots Returned With Flaws

Sep 17, 2020
Originally published on September 17, 2020 5:31 pm

More than a tenth of registered voters in North Carolina have requested absentee ballots this year — significantly higher than in previous elections.

Just under 59,000 of those more than 830,000 ballots have already been returned and accepted. But a little more than 1,200 returned absentee ballots have been deemed deficient because of incomplete witness information — the most prevalent issue with flawed ballots. 


Tomas Lopez, executive director of the voting rights advocacy organization Democracy North Carolina, said that with so many first-time absentee voters it's not a surprise some are encountering difficulties with the process.


"And that's why it's really important for there to be really clear information and really decisive and clear action to assist voters,” said Lopez.

Black voters account for a disproportionate number of those flawed ballots. According to Lopez, white voters historically have cast absentee ballots in greater numbers.

"The proportion of first-time absentee-by-mail voters is likely going to be higher among Black voters and other voters of color,” he said.

In a lawsuit filed by Democracy NC, a North Carolina judge recently ordered state elections officials to make sure absentee voters have ample opportunity to cure such problems. Lopez says the best thing a voter can do in that situation is contact their local elections board for instructions.

Residents can check ballot status by contacting their local county board of elections, or using the state board's website.

Duplicate Ballots

A mixup with the first absentee ballots sent in North Carolina also caused some voters to receive two identical ballots for the November general election, according to election officials.

Some ballots intended for voters in Matthews were mislabeled with the wrong names and were shredded before they could be sent this week, Mecklenburg County election officials told news outlets. When officials printed new mailing labels to correct the mistake, some voters ended up getting two duplicate ballots.

Fewer than 500 voters were affected, Election Director Michael Dickerson said. The official added that it was unlikely that voters could have cast two ballots, a felony, because each mailing label includes an individual code making it impossible to vote twice.


Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.