© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

NC Begins Processing Tens Of Thousands Of Absentee Ballots

Steve Harrison
Mecklenburg elections director Michael Dickerson (standing) brings out the first of 44 bins of mail ballots Tuesday night.

Mecklenburg’s Board of Elections began a daunting task Tuesday evening: processing stacks of absentee ballots.

County Director of Elections Michael Dickerson brought out 44 bins containing nearly 35,000 ballots. He already had a bi-partisan team to review the envelopes to make sure they were filled out properly, with things like the voter’s signature and a witness signature.

But the five-person elections board also spot-checked ballots before they were run through a counting machine. The results are placed on a thumb drive and won’t be tallied until Election Day.

The elections board will meet at least four more times to process absentee ballots.

“We’re already higher in the first meeting than we were for the entire November (2016) general election,” Dickerson said.

In that election, there were 26,000 mail ballots in Mecklenburg County.

In Catawba County, the elections board approved more than 3,200 mail ballots Tuesday morning, said county elections director Amanda Duncan.

“This election is just out of the ordinary,” she said. “The previous elections we have never mailed out this many ballots. In 2016, I think we mailed out the most, close to 5,000, so we have already surpassed that.” 

The processing of mail-in ballots comes as Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how ballots with problems should be resolved.

State elections director Karen Brinson Bell emailed county directors this week telling them that most ballot problems can be corrected by sending voters what’s known as a “cure affidavit.” Voters sign the affidavit and attest the ballot is theirs and legitimate. Republicans have said that circumvents the requirement that all absentee ballots have at least one witness signature – a provision that both GOP and Democratic legislators agreed to.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections approved the “cure affidavit” as part of a proposed settlement to a lawsuit. Republicans say the General Assembly should write the election laws and not the board.

Across the state, more than 1 million absentee ballots have been sent to voters. As of Tuesday, 278,000 had been returned.

Election questions Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the 2020 election, absentee voting or how to vote safely in person? Share your questions below.


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.
David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.