Raleigh, N.C. — The State Board of Elections has launched a tool that will allow people who have mailed in absentee ballots to track the ballots through the process.
State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said the BallotTrax tool is meant to build confidence in North Carolina’s absentee voting system.
“We hope that that’s a way people can be reassured,” Brinson Bell said.
The tool is available only to people who have requested an absentee ballot. More than 800,000 absentee ballots have already been requested – about 13 times the normal level of a presidential election – and more than 35,000 ballots have already been returned.
Once a voter sets up an account – name, birth date and ZIP code are required – the system will notify the person that the requested ballot has been mailed. Once the ballot is completed, witnessed and mailed, the system will notify the voter when the U.S. Postal Service has it, when it’s received by the local board of elections and when it’s accepted.
If a ballot is not accepted, the county board of elections should notify the voter so he or she can fix any mistakes. The voter may have to fill out an affidavit with corrections, Brinson Bell said, noting that the person may have to do a completely new ballot in some cases.
“The witness aspect is probably the one where we’re seeing the most problems. Either the witness didn’t sign, or the witness didn’t provide their information,” she said.
Sending ballots in early allows more time to get it right, she said.
If absentee voters don’t trust the mail, they or an immediate relative can hand-deliver their ballots to the county board.
Brinson Bell advised against following President Donald Trump’s recommendation to vote by mail and then go the to polls to verify the absentee vote was received.
“What we would do is indicate to the voter that they have already voted, and we would not issue them another ballot,” she said. “If people do start showing up in person at our early voting sites or on Election Day just to check the status of your ballot, I think that would be really unfortunate, because it could potentially create lines and exposure for people.”
Simply requesting a mail-in ballot doesn’t lock a voter into that form of voting. Anyone who changes his or her mind can simply scrap the mail-in ballot and head to an early voting site or local polling place to vote in person. But they cannot vote both by mail and in person.
The BallotTrax service is free for the state this year and will cost $5,000 to run next year if leaders decide to keep it, said Pat Gannon, spokesman for the State Board of Elections.