County Boards Of Elections See More Duplicate Absentee Ballot Requests
County boards of elections around the Charlotte region are receiving higher numbers of duplicate absentee ballot requests as more people vote by mail this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Updated Oct. 1 1:40 PM: This story has been updated to include Mecklenburg County's numbers for duplicate absentee ballot requests and valid, processed requests.
In Gaston County, the Board of Elections’ absentee ballot system has caught about 1,000 duplicate ballot requests so far. Residents are not allowed to be sent multiple ballots, as voting multiple times is a Class I felony in North Carolina.
Gaston County Board of Elections Director Adam Ragan said the duplicates are likely from confused voters who haven’t voted absentee by mail before.
"And a lot of them are not familiar with the process, and they think that just because they send in a request and a week later their ballot’s not in their hand, that they think they need to send another request," Ragan said.
Ragan said third-party political groups who have sent ballot request forms to voters can’t legally know who’s already requested a ballot. That's due to a change in state law after the election fraud in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District in 2018. He believes those unsolicited forms are one factor in the adidtional duplicate requests this year.
"It's a combination of the interest in the election, the issues related to COVID, and people not wanting to vote in person," Ragan said. "It's almost a perfect storm of issues related to absentee ballot requests this time."
Ragan said the Gaston County Board of Elections has received more than 16,500 valid requests for absentee ballots so far for this election. That's more than four times the total requests it received in the last presidential election. He said the Gaston County Board of Elections tries to send out ballots within one week of a request, and he asked that residents be patient.
In Mecklenburg County, the Board of Elections has found 9,615 duplicate absentee ballot requests as of Wednesday. Elections Director Michael Dickerson said his office processed 153,014 valid absentee ballot requests so far.
Meanwhile, Iredell County Elections Director Becky Galliher said her office has rejected just under 400 duplicate requests. It has also processed more than four times the usual number of ballot requests: 17,840 as of Wednesday, compared to about 4,800 ballot requests during the entire 2016 general election period.
A spokesperson for the Union County Board of Elections said it has not seen a higher number of rejected ballot requests because of duplicates. However, the spokesperson said, Union County residents have visited the elections office to ask about the unsolicited ballot request forms sent by third-party groups, particularly after they had already submitted their ballot request.
As of Wednesday, boards of elections around North Carolina have processed more than 1.1 million requests for absentee ballots. Early, in-person voting in North Carolina begins on Oct. 15, while the last day residents can request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 27.