North Carolina surpasses 1 million mark for absentee ballots requested

North Carolina surpasses 1 million mark for absentee ballots requested
Boxes full of absentee ballot packets ready to be sent out to thousands of voters. (Source: WECT)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A milestone has been reached in North Carolina for the number of absentee ballots requested for this year’s election.

According to the North Carolina State Board of Election’s daily absentee log, 1,002,874 absentee ballots have been requested as of Sept. 23. The state was the first in the country to have them mailed out to voters beginning on Sept. 4.

Data from the NCSBE says that 494,072 Democratic Party-affiliated voters have requested ballots, while 179,279 GOP-affiliated voters have requested ballots. By comparison, 325,173 unaffiliated voters have requested ballots.

Wake County leads the way with 149,689 ballots requested among voters, followed by Mecklenburg County (141,237), Guilford County (55,543) and Durham County (55,520).

On Tuesday, North Carolina election officials agreed that mail-in absentee ballots returned this fall with deficient information can be fixed without forcing the voter to fill out a new blank ballot.

The change, if it stands, would likely yield an upward tick in the number of counted ballots in this presidential battleground state.

The State Board of Elections issued the new guidance to county boards explaining residents won’t be forced to start over from scratch in casting votes if a witness fails to sign or provide an address on the envelope containing their absentee ballot. The guidance means that the ballot now won’t be considered “spoiled,” and the voter will be sent an affidavit to sign to rectify the problem.

Issues with deficient witness information on mail-in ballots have disproportionately affected Black voters. Ballots cast by African Americans account for about 43 percent of those classified as having incomplete witness information, according to state elections data. Yet Black residents account for 16 percent of overall ballots returned.

On Wednesday, both Republican members of the NCSBE resigned.

The resignations came just as the NCSBE agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, which sued state officials over a variety of provisions related to absentee voting. The settlement may bring changes to the mail-in ballot process, which is already underway.

The board agreed unanimously on the settlement. A judge will now consider whether to approve it.

“Voters need certainty. So, I think it was in the best interest of voters of North Carolina that we were able to provide that certainty now and make some commonsense changes, so that everybody in North Carolina can vote,” said Damon Circosta, chairman of the State Board of Elections in an interview.

The agreement calls for an easier process for voters to correct mistakes in filling out their mail-in ballot. The state requires a witness to sign that ballot, write their address, and print their name. If there’s an issue with how the witness filled out that portion, the settlement allows for a voter to fill out an affidavit and send it to the county board of elections to correct that problem. Under current rules, the voter would have to get a new ballot altogether.

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