Voting stations at the Moore County Agricultural Center in Carthage

File photo: 2018 voting stations at the Moore County Agricultural Center in Carthage. 

The Moore County Board of Elections began reviewing completed absentee by-mail ballots this past week, on schedule, despite a contentious legal battle over ballot counting procedures at the state level.

Federal law requires all valid votes — including absentee ballots that meet eligibility and validity requirements — to be counted in every election regardless of how they are cast.

Glenda Clendenin, longtime director of the Moore County Elections office, reported 11,317 absentee ballots were mailed out to voters as of Friday morning. Of those, 4,728 ballots were returned and 3,739 have been reviewed and approved. The others are awaiting review.

Due to the pandemic, the local election board will live-stream its weekly ballot review meetings. The video feed is shared on the county’s website and also posted to YouTube.

The first ballot review meeting was held Sept. 29 and can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohznIqtgdYQ

“We cannot read voter names aloud because of confidentiality laws, but we read out the individual number assigned to each ballot,” Clendenin said.

During the weekly review process, each absentee ballot is checked to see if the voter properly included their address and to verify the witness signature.

If the address is incomplete, Clendenin said they are permitted to mail an affidavit to the voter. Also if the completed absentee ballot was hand-delivered, rather than mailed back, by someone other than the voter or their close relative, they will be contacted directly by the Moore County Board of Elections office.

All returned absentee ballots that are missing a witness signature are set aside, according to current state guidance, and will not be counted.

Nine ballots reviewed last Tuesday had missing address information. One ballot was missing the signature of a witness.

“So we only have one ballot at this time in question,” Clendenin said.

Absentee ballots are not automatically sent out to all registered voters; they must be requested and sent by mail. State law does allow for third-party organizations to mail/email blank absentee mail-in requests, but they cannot “pre-fill” in any part of the form.

Voters may request an absentee mail-in ballot up until Oct. 27. The deadline to submit absentee by-mail ballots is Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

Submit a request online at https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home.

A new barcode scanning system allows voters to track the progress of their absentee mail-in ballot. The tracing process begins with a mailing label created by the local elections office. The ballot is then tracked as it enters the outgoing mail and, once again, when a voter receives it and returns the ballot and it is accepted for counting. At each stage, voters can opt to receive real-time messaging in the form of text push notifications, emails, or voice alerts, depending on which option they’ve chosen.

As of Oct. 1, Moore County had 72,090 registered voters including 29,840 Republicans, 25,468 unaffiliated voters, 16,204 Democrats, 498 Libertarians, 52 Constitution Party, and 28 Green Party members.

For those who prefer to cast their ballots in person, early voting takes place Oct. 15-31, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m.-3p.m. Saturdays, and 2-5 p.m. on Sundays, at four established sites:

* Moore Agricultural Center, 707 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage;

* Aberdeen Recreation Station, 301 Lake Park Crossing in Aberdeen;

* Cannon Park Community Center, 210 Rattlesnake Trail in Pinehurst; and

* Vass Town Hall, 140 S. Alma St. in Vass.

The Moore County Board of Elections office is located at 700 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage. Local elections office staff may be reached by phone at (910) 947-3868 or email at elections@moorecountync.gov.

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