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Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

Starting Friday, NC Will Send 618,000 Absentee Ballots To Voters -- The First State To Do So

Tiffany Tertipes
North Carolina will start sending 618,000 mail ballots to voters starting Friday.

North Carolina will start sending out absentee mail ballots on Friday for the November election – the first state to do so.

And because of the coronavirus pandemic, elections officials are expecting a surge in mail voting.

Four years ago, about 21,000 voters in North Carolina cast mail ballots for the presidential election. With two months before the 2020 election, 618,000 people have requested mail ballots.

“This is unprecedented, the number of absentee-by-mail requests that we have received,” said elections director Karen Brinson Bell.

The state Board of Elections will start sending ballots out on Friday -- but not everyone will receive them immediately.

“It’s going to be a rolling process as it will be throughout the entire election,” Brinson Bell said. “So be mindful, if you do not receive your ballot immediately, you will. And we will have those to you by the end of the month.”

In a typical year, about 4-5% of people vote by mail. Bell said she expects between 30-40% of all ballots will be cast by mail this year.

To prepare for the increase in mail voting, the elections board made some changes to mail voting, including only requiring one witness signature instead of two. And the elections board said it has made the mail ballot request form and mail ballot easier to use, which it hopes will reduce the number of unintentional errors that causes ballots to be invalidated.

The surge in mail voting across the nation has led President Trump to make unsubstantiated claims about mail voting being fraudulent. In Wilmington on Thursday, Trump suggested that people vote by mail and then vote again in person as a test of the system.

That led the state elections board to tell voters Thursday that it’s a Class I felony for a voter "with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time … in the same primary or election.”

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that Trump was not encouraging people to break the law. She said the president wants voters to check and see if their mail ballot had been counted. And if they hadn’t been counted, to vote in person.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.