WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On the eve of hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots being sent out to voters across North Carolina, the state’s top law enforcement official and election officials are reminding voters: Voting twice in an election is a felony.
The reminders come after comments made by President Donald Trump while he was visiting Wilmington to declare the city a WWII Heritage City.
When asked by WECT’s Jon Evans if he trusted the state’s absentee by mail voting system, Trump suggested voters “check” that their mail ballot was counted by attempting to vote in person on Election Day.
“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So, let them send it in and let them go vote,” Trump said.
Doing that—attempting to vote after already sending back an absentee by mail ballot—is as much a crime in North Carolina as actually voting twice, explained state Attorney General Josh Stein.
“To go and try to vote a second time as a way to test the system is a felony in North Carolina. Do not do that. It’s a terrible idea,” he said in an interview Thursday afternoon.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president’s comments were made because he has concerns some absentee ballots won’t be counted, and claimed his comments were taken out of context.
“The President wants enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement, that’s his goal with the comments he made yesterday,” she said during a press briefing.
But when presented with the entirety of Trump’s comments, Stein said what the president was advocating is still illegal.
“It’s a felony to vote twice in North Carolina,” he said, “and it was wrong for the President to tell people to do so.”
“It is illegal to vote twice in an election. N.C.G.S. § 163-275(7) makes it a Class I felony for a voter, ’with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.’ Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law,” said director Karen Brinson Bell in a statement.
The release also included reminders of how to properly ensure your mail ballot is counted, including utilizing the state’s new tracking system.
In particular, Bell said the state does not want voters going to the polls to check on their absentee ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, if there is an issue, voters should call their county board of elections.
A recipient of a by-mail ballot can also return that ballot in person to an early voting location or the board of elections if they are concerned about it arriving.
Stein said he fears the comments will have a chilling effect on voter confidence.
“It’s frankly incredibly discouraging the way he is trying to scare people away from vote-by-mail, which is an entirely legitimate way for people to cast a ballot,” he said, “and in North Carolina, it’s easy, safe and secure.”