2020 Election: Voting by Mail in North Carolina


Sarah Hanchey , Falcon Post Staff

Voting through absentee ballots is an important option for voters who wish to stay safe during the current pandemic. Voting by mail will help reduce the number of people at the polls and reduce the spread of COVID-19 throughout the community. 


Absentee ballots or mail-in ballots are a voting option for North Carolina voters who wish to avoid heading to the polls in person. While this form of voting hasn’t been popular in past elections, it is expected to be utilized more in 2020 due to the presence of COVID-19. 


Here is everything you need to know about absentee voting:


Any registered North Carolina voter can request a ballot. In North Carolina, it isn’t necessary to provide reasoning for requesting a ballot. A voter can request a ballot for themselves or a close relative. According to The News & Observer, a close relative is defined as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepparent, stepchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, or son-in-law. After you are sent a ballot in the mail, all you have to do is fill it out, and mail it back by Friday, November 6th. 


Ballots can be requested any time before 5 pm on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. A ballot can be requested through an online portal at votebymail.ncsbe.gov. Voters who do not wish to use the portal can also fill out a blank request form at ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail, or contact the local county elections office. If using the blank request form, it must be returned by email, fax, mail, or in person. 


Ballots may take up to a week to be delivered to voters. Once voters receive their ballot, they must fill it out following all the rules listed. An important rule is that voters need to have an eligible witness. This person doesn’t have to know who is voted for, but they do have to sign that the ballot was filled out. After all the instructions have been followed, voters may return the absentee ballot.


According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, there are a few options for returning the absentee ballot. First, voters can mail the ballot back. The ballot must have a postmark before Tuesday, November 3rd. It must be delivered before Friday, November 6th. Another option is to mail the ballot using a commercial service such as FedEx. A ballot can also be dropped off in person to the board of elections office by 5 pm on Election Day. Finally, the ballot can be dropped off at an early voting site. A voter or the voter’s near relative can return their ballot. 


If voters request a ballot and then decide they wish to vote in person, they can do so as long as they don’t fill out an absentee ballot. Voters who have already filled out and sent in an absentee ballot can not vote in person. It is illegal to vote twice. So voters can vote in person as long as they do not mail back an absentee ballot. 


Some voters worry that the use of absentee ballots is not safe or reliable. Karen Brinson Bell is the North Carolina election director and reports that the state has enacted many protections to prevent voter fraud. The North Carolina State Board Of Elections provides a list of 12 reasons why absentee ballots are safe. The list includes that absentee ballots are only sent to registered voters and that information such as the voter’s driver’s license number or digits in their social security number are required for the ballot to be officially counted. 


Once voters have mailed in their ballot, they do not need to go to the polls on election day. People who wish to check on their ballot to see if it’s been received can do two things: They can call their local county board of elections or they can download the new app, BallotTrax. Karen Brinson Bell quotes that she “strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted. That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.”


Mailing in absentee ballots is an easy way to vote and keep everyone safe during the spread of COVID-19.  Please remember how important it is to vote! For more information, go to www.ncsbe.gov