By Harley Nefe
The Watauga County Board of Elections will meet electronically on Friday, Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. to continue reviewing and approving absentee envelopes.
The Board of Elections’ first meeting was held on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and they received 1,677 ballots with 14 deficiency ballots, Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder said.
Snyder further said 1,677 absentee ballots is more than any one single year in totality, as in 2016, there were 1,544 total absentee ballots voting by mail.
As of Oct. 1, the Watauga County Board of Elections has received 1,794 absentee by mail ballots. The specific breakdown by political party is as follows:
- 873 Democratic
- 290 Republican
- 627 Unaffiliated
- 3 Libertarian
- 1 Green
- 0 Constitutional
Snyder said the Watauga County Board of Elections will continue to meet twice a week to review and approve absentee envelopes, and the last meeting will be Nov. 2 before Election Day on Nov. 3.
“Traditionally, as the law stands, anything postmarked by 5 p.m. Nov. 3 as far as absentee mail, we can accept until Nov. 6,” Snyder said. “So, we have a supplemental meeting for anything that comes in after that last cut off.”
Residents can vote by mail by requesting an absentee ballot online at the North Carolina Board of Elections Online Portal.
All absentee ballots must be requested by Oct. 27. However, to avoid any problems caused by U.S. Postal Service delays, state and county boards of elections are encouraging individuals to not wait until the last day to request them.
Absentee ballots can be returned to the Board of Elections office in person or mailed back. They can also be dropped off at any of the early-voting locations during early-voting hours. Ballots can not be dropped off at precincts on Election Day, only at the board of elections’ office.
Watauga County has six early-voting locations:
Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners’ Board Room
814 W. King Street, Boone
Appalachian State University, Plemmons Student Union – Blue Ridge Ballroom
263 Locust Street, Boone
Blowing Rock Town Hall
1036 Main Street, Blowing Rock
Deep Gap Fire Department
6583 Old 421 South, Deep Gap
High Country Vacation Homes (Foscoe)
520 Church Road, Boone
Western Watauga Community Center
1081 Old U.S. Highway 421, Sugar Grove
Watauga County early voting hours:
October 15-30: 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
October 17 and October 24: 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
October 31: 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The public may access and join the Watauga County Board of Elections meeting tomorrow by calling: +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) or +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago).
Once you call, you will be prompted to enter the following code:
Meeting ID: 874 9355 1586
Alternatively, you may join the Zoom Meeting via the Internet with the link:
Meeting ID: 874 9355 1586
The State Board of Elections released this information:
With 33 days until the Nov. 3 election, county boards of elections have approved the absentee ballots of about 300,000 voters. This means 4% of registered voters in North Carolina have already cast their ballots in the 2020 general election. They will be counted in unofficial results reported on election night.
“These vote-by-mail numbers are far greater than we’ve ever seen in North Carolina history,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections. “They show that the process is working well for the vast majority of North Carolina voters who choose to vote by mail.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, bipartisan county elections boards across North Carolina started meeting to approve absentee ballots for counting on election night. They will continue to meet at least every Tuesday through Election Day to approve additional ballots. For details on that process, see Numbered Memo 2020-25.
So far, a small fraction of absentee voters – about 3.4% – returned their ballot with a problem, or deficiency. Those issues can be corrected, either through a certification process or by issuing the voter a new ballot, ensuring that all eligible voters’ ballots are counted.
“Many voters are casting their ballots by mail for the first time, so some mistakes are expected,” Brinson Bell said. “We strongly encourage voters to carefully read the instructions and be sure to complete all required fields on the envelope. But if they make a mistake, there is still time to fix it.”
Required fields are the voter’s signature and the witness’s printed name, address, and signature. If the voter receives assistance marking or mailing the ballot, the assistant’s name, address, and signature must be provided. (See “Filling Out the Absentee Ballot Return Envelope” below.)
Courts still are weighing how elections administrators should handle ballots that are missing a witness signature. Until then, the State Board has directed the 100 county boards of elections to store those ballots securely until further direction from the courts. (See Numbered Memo 2020-27, issued today.)
Tips for absentee voters
- Request and return your ballot as soon as possible. Ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day. However, we recommend putting them in the mail at least a week before the election, or October 27.
- Follow the instructions carefully and complete all required fields on the absentee ballot return envelope.
- Track your ballot. Find information here: https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail/absentee-ballot-tools.
- If you receive a ballot by mail but decide to vote in person instead, simply shred and discard your absentee ballot.
Absentee by Mail Voting Improvements
Recognizing that many more voters would cast their ballots by mail in 2020, the State Board took significant steps to simplify the absentee voting process for voters. Improvements include:
- A new Absentee Ballot Request Portal, where voters, for the first time, can request a ballot online. (Press release)
- BallotTrax, a new system that allows voters to track their absentee ballots from request to acceptance by the county board of elections. (Press release)
- The redesign of the absentee ballot return envelope and instructions.
Filling Out the Absentee Ballot Return Envelope
Before returning their ballot, each voter should ensure that their ballot and ballot return envelope are complete.
Before completing the ballot return envelope, the voter should read the instructions in Step 1 (pictured below). Step 1 explains who can and cannot serve as the voter’s witness.
On the ballot return envelope, the voter must sign their name in Step 2 (pictured below).
For the 2020 general election, only one witness is required for a voter who is completing an absentee ballot. The witness must complete Step 3 on the ballot return envelope, which includes printing their name and address and signing their name.
If the voter needs assistance completing their ballot, they may receive assistance from a person that meets the qualifications in Step 1. The voter assistant certification section of the return envelope must include the assistant’s printed name and address and signature and must only be completed if the voter received assistance.