Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The November 2020 election is just four months away, and with Coronavirus cases in North Carolina continuing to rise, voting during the pandemic can be intimidating for some people. To make it easier and safer to vote in the election, the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 1169, which changed the way N.C. voters are able to cast their ballots by mail.
With the changes, any registered voter in North Carolina may request and receive a mail-in “absentee” ballot. Prior to the new legislation mail-in absentee ballots were only available to voters under special circumstances.
Macon County Board of Elections Director Melanie Thibault said if the current trend continues, more people than ever are on track to vote this November by mail.
“We had a total of 188 to vote absentee by mail for the second primary,” said Thibault. “We have already at this time, and it has not even started yet, 656 requests for the November election.”
Absentee by mail is scheduled to begin on Sept. 4 in North Carolina and run through Oct. 27.
Voters may call the North Carolina State Board of Elections or their county board of elections and request a blank absentee ballot request form be sent to them by mail, e-mail, or fax.
Voters will be able to submit online requests for absentee ballots once the North Carolina State Board of Elections creates the online portal, which should be no later than Sept. 1, 2020.
The voter or their near relative/legal guardian must sign the request form and submit it to their County Board of Elections in person or by email, fax, or mail via U.S. Postal Service, DHL, FedEx or UPS. Each county board of elections will then mail absentee ballots to registered voters who have made a request. The board will send the an absentee ballot, a return envelope with a certificate statement on it, and an instruction sheet. The ballots may not be picked up in person.
Mark the ballot with your choices in the presence of one witness who is at least 18 years old and not a candidate in the election in which you are voting. The voter and witness (or notary public) must each complete and sign the certificate on the return envelope and provide their addresses. Make sure all parts of the certificate form on the envelope are filled out, including your signature, insert the ballot in the envelope, and seal it.
Return the ballot in the container-return envelope by mail or deliver in person to your county board of elections. If returning by mail, the envelope must be postmarked by 5 p.m. on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 3). If you are returning the ballot in person, take the ballot to your County Board of Elections office – not an Early Voting site or Election Day precinct. Only the voter or the voter’s near relative or legal guardian may return your ballot— do not give it to someone else to return.
For those planning to vote in person, safety precautions will be taken during the November election, as they were during the second primary which occurred in June. Voting booths will be set at least six feet apart and sanitized between each voter. Voting will have one entrance and one exit and masks will be required.