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North Carolina

We see opportunities in several issue areas in which North Carolina could implement voter-centric reforms. North Carolina enacted several temporary reforms in 2020, such as establishing a cure process and a semi-permanent absentee voter list, and allowing ballots postmarked by election day. It can continue to strengthen its election system by making these permanent. By passing legislation to guarantee prepaid postage and make a wider range of ballot return options a permanent fixture, North Carolina can further strengthen its electoral system. As always, we stress that policy is important, but it is just as important that it is implemented well.

As of 2021....

No Excuse Required

No Excuse Required

No excuse to vote by mail

Online Mail Ballot Application

Online Mail Ballot Application

Apply for mail ballot online

Robust Ballot Return Option

Robust Ballot Return Option

U.S. mail, drop boxes, vote centers, and more

Prepaid Postage

Prepaid Postage

Postage-paid return envelopes provided

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Election Day Postmark Acceptance

Accepts ballots postmarked by Election Day

Ballot Tracking

Ballot Tracking

Online method to check ballot status

Signature Verification

Signature Verification

Voter signature verified before ballot is counted

Cure Process

Cure Process

Ability to correct issues so ballot can be counted

Preprocessing

Preprocessing

Election official may process ballot before Election Day

Opportunities

North Carolina can reduce costs and increase voter convenience by expanding its semi-permanent absentee voting list, where voters can sign up to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for each election in the year without having to re-apply, to all voters. This would save the state significant expenses by cutting down on the requests it needs to process; on average, states save $1 for every request they no longer need to process.
North Carolina implemented top-tier ballot tracking in the 2020 election and should make it a permanent feature for all future elections. An expanded notification system helps keep rejection rates low and increases voter confidence and participation.
Offering secure drop boxes as another method for voters to return ballots is a cost-effective way to reduce strain on the postal system. We highly recommend including provisions to allow for ballots to be received at polling places, vote centers, and drop boxes, as well as other locations deemed necessary by the clerk. These options are a preferred method by voters who want an extra bit of reassurance that their ballot makes it to the elections office on time.
We highly recommend creating vote centers, or polling locations where any voter in the county can vote. This is a way to streamline the system so over time, as the share of the vote cast by mail increases, counties can have fewer overall polling locations, while individual voters will have more voting location options.
Guaranteeing prepaid postage is a voter-centric reform that breaks down an economic barrier to the ballot box.
Accepting ballots with Election Day postmarks is a best practice to ensure that voters are given all options to vote their ballot in a timely manner. North Carolina was court ordered to accept ballots postmarked by election day 9 days after the election for the 2020 general election, and should codify this change.
Signature verification processes fulfill the purposes of witness and notary requirements, while imposing a less heavier burden on voters. Signature verification, like witness and notary requirements, ensures that ballots are completed by the voters they were sent to; however, unlike signature verification, witness and notary requirements are harder to satisfy, especially for disabled voters and voters that live alone, among other groups. We recommend that North Carolina eliminate its notary or witness requirement in favor of a secure, less burdensome, signature verification process.

Recent Legislation

As of June 20, 2021

During the 2020 session, one piece of pro-vote by mail legislation passed: HB 1169. HB 1169 established an online absentee request system, added an online ballot tracking system, but left other barriers, like the witness requirement for all absentee ballots, intact. Later, courts required the state to prepay postage for ballot return envelopes and create a cure process. The State Board decided to keep the cure process.

While the State has an opportunity to codify these temporary reforms and strengthen its electoral system, it hasn’t passed any bills containing voter-centric reforms as of time of writing. Indeed the bills the Legislature is considering in its 2021 session would either make absentee voting more restricted and difficult or would have no significant effect on voter access.