Some 6,000 absentee by-mail ballots will be sent out Friday from the Moore County Board of Elections. This is a substantial increase from previous election cycles.
“If we did 300 or 400 in the beginning in past years, that was amazing,” said Elections Director Glenda Clendenin.
Statewide through August 31, voters had submitted more than 560,000 absentee mail-in ballot requests, according to the State Election Board. That is a sixteen-fold increase in requests than county boards of elections had received by this time in 2016.
To handle the high demand, Glendenin said Moore County Tax Office staff assisted by stuffing 12,000 envelopes. Each voter requested ballot includes specific instructions on how to complete and return the document so it will be accurately counted.
Clendenin said she’s met with local and regional post office representatives to give them advance notice about Friday’s extraordinarily high amount of outgoing mail.
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.
In addition, the local elections office will begin processing military absentee mail-in ballot requests early Friday morning. Unlike other voters, military members have the option of receiving a ballot by fax or email.
“This is an exciting and challenging time. We are moving right along,” Clendenin said.
In 2020, three voting options are available for voters: absentee by-mail, in-person early voting and Election Day voting.
Based on recommendations from the State Board of Elections, the N.C. General Assembly passed laws in 2020 to simplify absentee by-mail voting, including reducing the ballot witnessing requirement from two people to one, and allowing requests for a ballot to be submitted by email, fax and online.
Importantly, absentee by-mail ballots are not automatically sent out to all registered voters in North Carolina. State law allows for third party organizations to mail/email blank absentee mail-in requests, but they cannot “pre-fill” in any part of the form.
Ballots can not be picked up in person at a local elections office: they must be mailed. Voters may request an absentee mail-in ballot up until Oct. 27.
Once the ballot is completed, the voter may return it by mail using the official barcoded envelope, or it can be delivered in-person to an early voting site or the local elections office. The deadline to submit absentee mail-in ballots is Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.
As of Sept. 1, Moore County had 70,784 registered voters including 29,184 Republicans, 25,061 unaffiliated voters, 15,994 Democrats, 472 Libertarians, 47 Constitution Party, and 26 Green Party members.
Moore County’s one-stop voting plan was approved in mid-August by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
In-person early voting will take 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.
Voters who prefer to cast their ballots in-person at early voting sites and on Election Day will find numerous safeguards in place due to the pandemic. Social distancing is encouraged, free hand sanitizer and single-use pens will be available, and face masks are “strongly encouraged.” Free masks will be available at all voting sites.
Clendenin said the State Board is calling poll workers democracy heroes, “and they absolutely are heroes.”
“We have had a wonderful response. People have been emailing and calling about volunteering,” she said.
Election worker training is usually held in late September. As part of the pandemic safeguards, poll workers will be provided with masks, gloves and face shields. In addition, barriers will be erected between election workers and voters at check-in tables.
Registered voters interested in serving their community as an election worker should fill out a survey at bit.ly/democracyhero.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the office is closed to the public; however, staff continue to work during normal business hours. A secure drop box is available by the front door. If necessary, individuals may be seen by appointment on a case by basis.
The State Board also operates a dedicated webpage at NCSBE.gov/Coronavirus, where voters can find up-to-date information about elections during the pandemic.