RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Many of us have had or heard a horror story about something getting 'lost in the mail'.
So with all the recent talk of changes at the US Postal Service, state elections officials have scrambled to put a mail-in ballot tracking system in place as well as other tools to assure you ballot is delivered and counted.
"We've tried to put these things in place because we know that people are concerned about being out in public areas and waiting in lines because of their fears of coronavirus," State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell told ABC 11.
Already well over 700,000 North Carolinians have requested absentee ballots; that's more than 15 times the number of requests at this time in 2016. Four to five percent of voters cast absentee ballots in 2016.
State elections officials now expect as many as 40 percent of the state's voters will cast absentee ballots this year.
"With that many people being new to this process we knew that we needed to put in tools," Brinson Bell said.
She knows the high volume of requests is all because people don't want to take a chance on voting in-person and possibly being exposed to COVID-19.
"We've tried to take fear away," Bell said.
But then there was a new fear stoked by reports of cuts and changes at the USPS. Bell says that news made it more clear that the state had done the right thing by deciding to use a ballot tracking system - a plan that was already well underway at that time.
"When we learned of the coronavirus situation and the pandemic back in March we identified this tracking tool as a good service to the voters," she noted.
The company the state board chose is BallotTrax. The program, which goes live on Friday, allows you to register on the state's election website and use a barcode on your ballot's envelope to track it.
NC State Board of Elections said the BallotTrax system will not be live until Friday at the earliest. However, all ballot packets already sent out have barcodes for the return envelopes. So you can go ahead and mail your ballot and when BallotTrax is activated you can register for tracking at this link.
Bell hopes it will alleviate concerns saying, "It's going to allow the voter to receive an email, a text message, or a phone alert so that they know where their ballot is."
And once it arrives at your county elections office, there's a separate tool on the website that allows you to be sure your vote has been counted.
So in an election in which every vote may matter, but in an atmosphere in which casting it in-person may put your health at risk, North Carolina has a reassuringly safe and secure way to cast your ballot.
"I've said time and again since March that no voter will fear disease when they cast their ballot," Bell said adding that it took thousands of people statewide - some working around the clock - to ensure an election in which no one would have to risk their health to vote.
She says her staff and the staffs at every county elections office deserve credit for protecting not only your health but your constitutional right to vote.