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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.

Did Your Ballot Arrive In Time? NC's Absentee Deadline Passes Amid Concerns About Slow Mail Delivery

Mail-in ballots waiting to be processed by election workers in Salt Lake City, Utah.
George Frey
AFP via Getty Images
Mail-in ballots waiting to be processed by election workers in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This article is made possible through a partnership between WFAE and Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of our republishing policy.

County election boards across North Carolina meet Friday to canvass and certify their election results. In an election where more than one million North Carolinians voted by mail, the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail ballots on time has been a huge concern.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections reported Thursday that nearly 36,000 absentee ballots had arrived since Election Day. More than 60% of those arrived on Election Day, itself. In the days that followed, the number slowed from 4,000 to 5,000 coming in each day, to around 1,000 each day.

Mail ballots in North Carolina were accepted until Nov. 12, as long as they were postmarked by Election Day.

Absentee ballots are first-class mail, which means they should arrive within three days. But the ability of the post office to get mail ballots to election officials by the deadline has been an issue this year.

The NAACP sued the USPS in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia over the timely delivery of mail ballots. The judge in that case, Judge Emmett Sullivan, ordered the post office to continue “ballot sweeps” of its facilities twice daily after Election Day.

Post office workers at the Charlotte processing facility found 311 ballots during sweeps last week. A facility in Greensboro found 77 ballots. Facility managers said they hand-delivered those ballots to election boards.

Philip Bogenberger, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service, says the ballot sweeps were already happening before the lawsuit. He said the sweeps included all facility areas, including docks and places where employees had separated and put aside ballots to deliver them to election boards faster.

The State Board of Elections extended the deadline to receive absentee mail ballots this year, from three days after Election Day to nine days. That change was part of a legal settlement related to holding the election during the pandemic.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet Nov. 24 to certify statewide results.

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Michael Falero is a radio reporter, currently covering voting and the 2020 election. He previously covered environment and energy for WFAE. Before joining WFAE in 2019, Michael worked as a producer for a number of local news podcasts based in Charlotte and Boston. He's a graduate of the Transom Story Workshop intensive on Cape Cod and UNC Chapel Hill.