By Nathan Ham
A total of 65 completed ballots have been returned to the Watauga County Board of Elections as of Friday morning, according to board director Matt Snyder. So far, over 3,000 ballots have been requested and people have a variety of ways of returning those completed ballots. Ballots began being mailed out last Friday.
“We have mailed out 3,398 ballots so far and we appreciate folks and their interest in voting. We do ask that they submit their absentee requests as soon as possible,” said Snyder. “The vast majority of the ballots that have been brought in have been brought into our office in person, we have had a few come in by mail.”
He added that once early voting begins on October 15, absentee ballots can also be returned to any of the six early-voting sites across Watauga County, in addition to being mailed to the election office or returned to the office at the Watauga County Administrative building. The only place absentee ballots cannot be returned is at the local polling sites on Election Day.
“If folks have questions, now is the time to ask. We are trying to get as much information on the website as possible,” said Snyder. “The state launched its new online absentee portal last week. We have had about 700 people request ballots through that, so it has been a very popular option for people because they can do about everything online.”
Ballots are being sent out about as fast as the requests have been received, and according to Snyder, there has been a major increase in people interested in casting their votes through absentee balloting. The board of elections is also adding temporary staff in preparation for counting the ballots and putting ballots in the mail. Votes will not be counted until the first Board of Elections meeting on September 29. After that, the board will meet twice a week on each Tuesday and Friday at 5 p.m. through Election Day to process the absentee ballots as they come in.
“The ballots are run through the scanners, but the tabulators are not finalized until Election day, so they will be putting the ballots in and reading the votes, but nobody will know what those vote totals are until Election Day,” Snyder said.
The party affiliation of the absentee ballots will be known prior to Election Day and that data will be made available to anyone interested, according to Snyder.
A sample ballot for the 2020 election can be found here.