by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
I recently provided public testimony in support of making election day the deadline for county boards of elections to receive absentee-by-mail ballots.
There is a myth that, under current law, if a person puts a ballot in the mailbox on election day, they are guaranteed to have their ballot counted. That is not true. We are aware of problems with ballot container envelopes receive without a postmark, with an illegible postmark, or with an incorrect postmark. The problem was so bad that the State Board of Elections felt the need, in Numbered Memo 2020-22, to instruct county election boards to hunt down postal workers or commercial carriers to try to figure out when a ballot was mailed.
In the 2020 election, even with a court-imposed deadline of nine days after election day to receive absentee ballots, 813 ballots were not accepted due to their being “returned after deadline.”
However, there is something I did not mention. I also did not hear it from legislators during the House Rules Committee hearing or during floor debate on the bill (S326).
But our friends at NPR reminded us last year:
The 2020 general election has begun with North Carolina becoming the first state to start mailing out absentee ballots on Friday, two months before Election Day.
North Carolina has the longest mail voting period of any state in the United States.
Under North Carolina law, ballots must be ready for voters 60 days before general elections (50 days for primaries and 30 days for municipal elections). No other state provides voters that much time for voters to request, receive, and return their ballots.
North Carolina voters have ample time to vote their absentee ballots. Aside from the above-mentioned problems with accepting non-military/overseas ballots after election day, those additional three days are unnecessary given how much time voters have to request and cast their absentee ballots.