By Nathan Ham
Friday, September 4 marks the first date that the Watauga County Board of Elections will start sending out absentee ballots to those registered voters that have previously filed a request to receive one.
Mail-in voting has been a hotly contested subject among politicians this summer as we head into the 2020 election. Claims of mail-in ballot fraud have been thrown about by President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians while several Democratic politicians have been voicing support for sending out absentee ballots to anyone whether they have been requested or not.
In North Carolina, all absentee ballots must be requested prior to October 27. In a previous interview with the High Country Press, Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder advised for voters who want to avoid any problems caused by U.S. Postal Service delays to not wait until the last day to request them. The Watauga County board is expecting approximately 10,000 votes to be cast through the mail this fall.
“We know that there are a lot of people who do not feel comfortable about coming out to public areas and potentially having to wait in line or be around a large group of people,” Snyder said. “We think that voting by mail, which has always been an option in North Carolina, is a great solution for folks who have that concern because we want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote gets to vote.”
As a reminder, no special circumstance or reason is needed to request, receive, and vote by absentee ballot. Any North Carolina registered voter may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot for the 2020 general election.
For those concerned about voter fraud in the High Country, Snyder says that there is a three-step process that dictates how absentee mail-in ballots are handled. The Board of Elections will receive the ballots and check to see that they were signed by both the voter and a witness. Then the Board views them and approves, and once the Board approves them, they open the envelopes and the ballots are put into ballot calculators like those used at polling places on Election Day.
If someone has already requested a ballot and does not receive it between September 15-20, they are advised to call the office at 828-265-8061 to ask about the status of the request. More information can also be found on the Watauga County Board of Elections website.
North Carolina voters have three options for voting: mail-in absentee, in-person during the Early Voting period, and in-person on Election Day. Significant health safeguards will be in place for voters who cast their ballot in person.
The Early Voting period for the general election is October 15-31. Eligible individuals may register and vote at the same time using same-day registration during the Early Voting period at any one-stop location in the county.
Election Day is November 3. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and voters should vote at their assigned precinct.
North Carolina will mail ballots out today to over 618,000 registered voters that requested absentee mail-in ballots, the first state in the country to send their ballots out. In 2016 just 190,000 absentee ballots were mailed. Voters can return them in the mail or take them to their local election office.
For the 2020 Presidential Election, 15 electoral votes are up for grabs in one of the key swing states that show President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden in a close race.