County Elections Director: More Than 85% Of Mecklenburg Ballots Will Have Been Cast Before Election Day
More than half of registered voters in North Carolina have already cast their ballots as early voting wraps up Saturday. Absentee by-mail ballots are still coming in and the state can count them until Nov. 12 as long as they're postmarked by Election Day. Joining us as part of our weekly check-in is Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson.
Lisa Worf: Good morning, Mr. Dickerson.
Michael Dickerson: Good morning, Lisa.
Worf: These last couple days of early voting could be the busiest. At this point, how has early voting gone?
Dickerson: Early voting's gone extremely well. We've already surpassed what we did four years ago, which would have been our high-water mark for early voting. Absentee by-mail has been the one that has just taken off. We're anticipating about five times what we did four years ago.
Worf: So by the time early voting wraps up, with absentee by-mail voting, how many votes are you looking at compared to total votes in previous years?
Dickerson: I think our high-water mark four years ago was 475,000 voters. Period. Early voting, Election Day, absentee by-mail. This year, we should have that in absentee by-mail and early voting before we even start Election Day. So we're looking at Election Day being a smaller day as far as people going out to vote, but we still expect a good number. You're looking at a 70% turnout ...
Worf: And that's high even in presidential years?
Dickerson: Correct. That would be a little bit higher. I think we were 68% four years ago. But if you look at a 70%, we do higher numbers for planning purposes, you're still talking about 550,000 voters.
So that gives you about a 60-70,000 number that's going to show up on Election Day itself. So we should be able to manage that well at the 195 different voting locations throughout the county.
Worf: So then what are you expecting as far as lines at polling places on Election Day?
Dickerson: We shouldn't have anything too bad.
Worf: Now, there have been concerns about voter intimidation. WFAE spoke with election directors in 10 counties in the region, and so far they haven't received any major complaints from voters or seen any voter intimidation at sites. But what about Election Day? Is that a different animal?
Dickerson: I have not heard of anything here. And Election Day we'll monitor and maintain the peace and good order at every precinct to make sure they all stay open and unobstructed. That is the goal of every chief judge. And if we need to, we can call upon our friends in law enforcement and they can come out and make sure the peace and good order is maintained.
Worf: So you're expecting more of the same then on Election Day? Quiet?
Dickerson: Exactly. Especially considering that so many people have now already voted.
Worf: How's it going processing absentee ballots?
Dickerson: It's going great. Meetings are long. But that's OK. We're getting them all done. It's much better to have long meetings weekly than it is to have a meeting trying to do it all on Election Day, itself. So, I'm grateful for the board and the state's processes here so that Election Day, we can make it easier for everybody.
Worf: And you had to send out around 1,000 new ballots because of a lack of witness signatures on them. How many of those are you getting back?
Dickerson: Not all 1,000 had the witness signature missing. That was everything that needed cured. I've at least received, oh, I'd say at least a few hundred back already that had been processed through the certification letter affidavit or a spoiled/new ballot that was sent out in regards to the witness signature.
It's hard to tell, too, because some of them may have decided to go vote in-person early.
Worf: How long do you think it's going to take to tally all the votes on Election Day?
Dickerson: Good question. The vast majority of those votes will have been tallied already. The absentee by-mail, we've been processing through. The process for tallying absentee by-mail is just downloading a thumb drive. And then the process for counting the votes for early voting is the same thing.
Worf: So if anything, the higher amount of early voting in person and absentee by-mail could speed up the process?
Dickerson: That's what I look for.
Worf: It certainly doesn't sound like it's going to slow it down.
Dickerson: No, not here in North Carolina. I am hoping this will speed up the process. So, I fully suspect that by the time we walk out on Election Night, 99.9% of your results are reported here from Mecklenburg County.
Worf: That's Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson. Thanks, Mr. Dickerson.
Dickerson: You're quite welcome. Thanks for having me.
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?