Mecklenburg Elections Office Has Already Gotten Back 86,000 Absentee Ballots
Around 2.5 million people in North Carolina have already cast their ballots in this election. That's about a third of the state's registered voters. Most of those votes came through early in-person voting, which has been underway for just over a week. And we finally know what's happening to 7,000-10,000 absentee-by-mail ballots that were stuck in limbo due to legal wrangling.
Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson joins us as part of a weekly check-in.
Lisa Worf: Good morning, Mr. Dickerson.
Michael Dickerson: Good morning, Lisa.
Worf: So, your office finally knows how to proceed with 1,000 ballots in Mecklenburg County that are missing a witness signature. Those voters get a new ballot to fill out. How are you alerting them? And is there enough time for them to get the new ballot and get it back in?
Dickerson: Oh, sure, sure, sure. Now that the courts have ruled and the state has sent out a memo to correct, we have now sent out new ballots to all those voters. So, hopefully, that gives everybody plenty of time to mark that ballot, give them the option of voting in person if they so desire or voting this ballot and sending it back into us just as long as I have it postmarked by Election Day.
Worf: Now, next Tuesday October 27 is the last day voters can request an absentee ballot and due to a court ruling this week, as long as ballots are postmarked by election day, they’re still counted till November 12. President Trump’s campaign and the North Carolina GOP have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to shorten that period, keeping it where it was in previous elections, the Friday after Election Day. Do you expect to get many ballots straggling in after Election Day?
Dickerson: We don't usually get that many. In the past, the deadline has always been 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election. As long as it was postmarked and delivered to our office by 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election. I think four years ago we had 250-300 that would come in after the election, so especially this year, I think everybody is very aware of the fact that "Election Day is Nov. 3 and I want to get my ballot in." I've seen many of them being hand-delivered to early voting sites or many of them being hand-delivered to our office. So they're all heeding the warning that the post office said that if you want to get make sure you get it in there, send it seven to 10 days before the election.
Worf: And if you're still waiting to hear whether your absentee ballot made it to your local elections office, you have a few ways to do so, especially this time around. There's a new system called BallotTrax. How does that work?
Dickerson: If you've signed up for BallotTrax, it's a process that will let you know your ballot has been received at my office. And the other thing you can do is we have a voter search tool on our website. It's part of a (State Board of Elections) program where you can go in and type in your name, your specifics, and it will tell you if your ballot has been returned to the office and accepted and you have voted an absentee ballot. As of today, I think over 86,000 have been returned to my office...We approve them every Tuesday at our 5 o'clock meeting that (the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections) has.
Worf: And that 86,000 is just under half of the absentee ballot requests in Mecklenburg County, then?
Dickerson: Correct. Mailed out. But keep in mind, I do not expect to see all 190,000 back in my office. Whatever the reason, a lot of people just wanted that as insurance.
Worf: And BallotTrax will actually notify you via text message when the ballot has been received, right?
Dickerson: Correct. It's a neat setup. I ordered an absentee ballot by mail this year myself just to see what happened, and it was pretty cool. I got the text message that said,"Your ballot has been delivered to your mailbox." So that was fun. Then I went and voted in person this past Saturday at the early voting site at the Spectrum Center. Then the next day I get a notice from BallotTrax that says my absentee-by-mail ballot has been spoiled because I've already voted in person. So, it's pretty cool.
Worf: One of the worries was (COVID-19) outbreaks at some of their early voting sites. Have you had anything like that? Or cases?
Dickerson: No outbreaks. We've had a couple of people that have sort of said, "No, I'm not going to work anymore because of COVID-19." The thing that's in the paper now at the House of Prayer, we had a few people, a couple of people at one of my sites, said, "Gee, I went to that event, I'm not coming in again." And so they've self-quarantined, but nothing. We're very lucky. I think all of our safeguards are in place and are working quite well.
Worf: That's Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson. Mr. Dickerson, thank you.
Dickerson: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Lisa.
Tell us about your voting experience. Did it go smoothly? Were there any problems? How were the lines? Did you feel safe? If so, why or why not?