More than 4,000 of those ballots already cast are in Mecklenburg County, where the board of elections is preparing for a busy two months.
Inside the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office on Monday, phones were ringing off the hook and voters have been walking in all day with questions and to hand in their absentee ballots in person.
“Ms. Bonnie you’ve cast your vote,” said one staff member to a voter.
This is just the beginning for board of elections offices across the country who are expecting a busier season leading up to election day, which is just 50 days away. More than 780,000 North Carolinians requested to vote by mail this year, with many choosing to hand their ballot in in-person, instead of sending it through the mail. To compare, at this same time in 2016, just over 52,000 voters requested an absentee ballot.
Many voters said they requested a ballot because of COVID-19.
“We decided to go absentee ballot for not knowing what turnout would be on election day. Whether it be too long a line, whether it be safe or not safe," said Bruce Shapiro who was leaving the board of elections office. “Safety, its the number one factor. There’s just too many people who don’t believe in wearing a mask. It’s simple wear a mask and go vote.”
It wasn’t Bruce’s first time voting absentee, but it was for his wife. That’s a trend political scientists are watching closely in North Carolina.
“The other thing is that a substantial number of the returned ballots are for voters who didn’t use vote by mail previously so we should be on the watch for those voters, who don’t have any experience with this voting method, are following the instructions and getting their votes accepted," said Dr. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist.
Bitzer says there are several common mistakes when it comes to voting absentee, like not signing the ballot. But he says he’s seen lack of witness information most recently. He says when there’s a mistake on your ballot, it’s not rejected, but instead you should be expecting a call from your local board of elections.
“The county board of elections will get in touch, either by mail or email, to alert the voter to say ‘Hey you forgot to include your witness information, we’re sending you another ballot, we’re going to void that first ballot. Make sure to fill out the information correctly so we can accept your absentee by mail ballot,’” he said.
There are several ways to turn in your ballot if you request to vote absentee. Of course you can mail it in. But some people have reservations about sending a ballot through the main currently. If that’s the case for you, but you still want to mail it in, North Carolina launched a website called BallotTrax, where you can see the status of your ballot from it being mailed all the way to getting it to the local elections office.
You can also hand deliver your ballot to a local election office but only during business hours. There must be somewhere there to process the ballot and you’re required to fill out a small form when you’re there. North Carolina does not have ballot drop off boxes.
Once early voting opens on October 15, you can also hand deliver your ballot to your assigned early voting location.