RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Election officials expect more people in North Carolina to cast their absentee ballot by mail this year than ever before.
According to the latest numbers from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, of the state’s 7,226,377 registered voters, 1,233,349 absentee ballots have been requested.
So far 394,825 absentee ballots have been cast.
“We anticipate about 30 percent of our votes being cast absentee by mail, which is substantially higher than what we’ve seen in the past in North Carolina. Traditionally we only have four to five percent of our ballots cast by mail,” said NCSBE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell.
Brinson Bell said absentee ballots get counted as they come in after being approved by election officials but don’t get tabulated until Election Day.
She said early in-person votes are also counted as they come in, but not tabulated until Election Day and reported as the polls close.
Traditionally most North Carolinians chose to vote during the “One Stop” early voting period, according to Brinson Bell.
She expects 50 percent of the ballots to be cast during that period from Oct. 15 to 31.
Brinson Bell expects most voters will have voted early in some fashion by Nov. 3.
“By election night we actually may know about 80 percent of the results when we close polls based on the turnout, we’re seeing for absentee by mail voting and what we project for one stop early voting,” she said.
Brinson Bell believes 20 percent of the votes to be cast on Election Day. Leaving the number of ballots, either absentee, provisional or military, counted after Nov. 3 to be very small.
“What those numbers look like, it’s hard to know. We are now able to have a sense of how many ballots are outstanding in terms of absentee by mail. But also, now that we have our tracking system, we are able to see what’s in the mail stream and what will make it back in time,” she said.
She stresses every vote will get counted, and asks voters plan ahead how they are going to cast thier ballot.
“There really can be some really close races. In my 14 years of working in elections, I’ve had three elections decided by six votes,” said Brinson Bell.
Absentee ballots must be requested by Oct. 27.
Voted absentee ballots must be returned to the county board of elections no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will be counted only if they are postmarked on or before Election Day.
Absentee ballots can be returned in person at a voter’s county board of elections office or an early voting site, but not to a polling place on Election Day.