As of Friday, September 18, the State Board of Elections reported 103,395 ballots had been returned; of that 100,962 ballots--nearly 98%--had been accepted.
"Among the ballots that have been returned, overwhelmingly they are coming from voters who either voted in-person early in 2016 or waited until Election Day. So these may be voters who have a first time experience with absentee by-mail voting," said Dr. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College.
There is a slight difference in racial disparities in terms of which ballots have been turned down; about 5% of ballots from Black voters have not been accepted compared to 2% for their white counterparts.
"The inexperience of voting that method is showing some concerns about the return status. Those ballots are marked as deficient, and the voter has a second chance to correct it with an additional ballot," Bitzer said.
Indeed, a few of the state's "accepted" ballots are marked as "cured," meaning the voter corrected the issue with their ballot.
"That's a part of the problem that we recognize that because of the lack of familiarity with the administrative portion of the ballot that some people who are using them will not comply with the requirements. And that's why we are redoubling our efforts to make sure people understand exactly what it is that they need to do," said Irving Joyner, a professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Bitzer noted the percentage of ballots being turned away is beginning to drop.
"We could be seeing some fixing going on already," said Bitzer.
"At this point, it's good that the counties are doing hand-eye evaluations and notifying voters of curable issues, such as voter signature issues or problems with witnesses," said Sailor Jones, the campaigns director for Democracy North Carolina.
They're sharing graphics like these to educate voters.
Follow NC absentee ballot instructions closely:— Democracy NC (@democracync) September 18, 2020
🖊use ballpoint pen
🗳 voters sign the envelope
👀 ONE witness signs too (witness can be family/anyone over 18 except candidates or nursing home staff)
🏠 witnesses must also print name + add address (inc. street, city, state, zip) pic.twitter.com/Xc3ZqzpTwC
"In prior elections 3-4% might take advantage. This year, we could see ten times that amount. So we've been working a lot harder to make sure people are carefully filling out their ballots," Jones said.
Absentee ballots must be completed with a pen, signed by both the voter and witness, and the witness must also print their name and address. Witnesses must be 18 years old, According to the State Board of Elections, witnesses cannot be:
- A candidate for election, unless the candidate is the voter's near relative.
- If the voter is a patient or resident at a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or adult care home, the following individuals are also prohibited from assisting: an owner, manager, director, or employee of that facility; an individual who holds any elected federal, state or local office or precinct political party or organization office; or a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party.
"We have training sessions set up every Saturday. We have created Zoom classes to help people to understand how to complete the ballot," said Joyner.
WATCH: What you need to know when requesting and returning your absentee ballot
"What we're putting out and what county elections officials are working hard to do is to emphasize that voters need to follow directions carefully," Jones said.
To learn more about absentee ballot protocols, click here.