Securing your vote: Common, but preventable absentee ballot mistakes

Nearly 500,000 requested absentee ballots in North Carolina have not yet been returned
Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 7:46 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - Time is running out for absentee voters to get their ballots back and their voices heard. Without pushing the envelope, that is.

“Make sure that you’re following all of the instructions on the back of the return envelope,” said Carteret County Elections Director Caitlin Sabadish. “So that it can be right the first time.”

Despite the unprecedented turnout so far this election, nearly 500,000 requested absentee ballots still have not been returned in North Carolina, according to the State Board of Elections. Officials say running this close to the election without returning that is running a huge risk.

“Any time you deal with paper ballots, what you’re going to see is people who make mistakes filling in the wrong oval,” said Lenoir County Elections Director Steve Hines.

Election officials say most issues that lead to votes not being counted involve absentee ballots. That’s largely because mistakes caught while voting in-person can be rectified much easier.

“The voter has an option at that point,” said Hines. “They can cast the ballot. If they cast the ballot, it will count everything except for that race where there’s an over-vote, or they can retrieve that ballot and get a new one.”

Common mistakes include making stray marks, missing signatures, or omitting witness identification.

It’s too late for voters to be mailed a brand-new ballot. That deadline was 5 p.m. Friday. But, incomplete absentee ballots can be cured. That form must be returned by Nov. 12, as long as their absentee ballot is postmarked by election day.

“We’ll be calling them to let them know that a cure affidavit has been sent to them,” said Sabadish. “It will tell them exactly what they need to do.”

A system, new to the 2020 election, helps to track ballots, as well. BallotTrax is available to any North Carolina voter who voted absentee.

“If there is an issue, they can sign up for notifications,” said Sabadish. “It will notify the voter if there’s an issue with their ballot.”

A Supreme Court decision extended the deadline for absentee ballots by about another week. Any ballots will be accepted by Nov. 12 as long as they are postmarked by election day.

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