More Orange County residents request mail-in ballots for November election

More Orange County residents request mail-in ballots for November election

This article was originally published by The Daily Tar Heel at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and is republished here as part of the One Vote North Carolina student media collaboration. Copyright by The Daily Tar Heel. 

As the November election approaches, some states have turned to mail-in ballots as an option for those who feel uncomfortable going to the polls during COVID-19.

In North Carolina, registered voters can request a mail-in absentee ballot for the election with no excuse needed.

North Carolina has had the option for voters to mail in no-excuse absentee ballots since 2000, said Rachel Raper, the director of elections in Orange County.

“Voters do not have to provide any sort of excuse as to why they want us to mail them a ballot,” she said. “They just simply need to fill out a form.”

Orange County has already processed more mail-in absentee ballot requests as of early August than it did in the 2016 general election, Raper said.

There have already been over 6,000 requests for mail-in absentee ballots in Orange County, Raper said. She said this number is more than normal for a general election.

Mail-in ballots have been a topic of political controversy over the last few months. Some politicians, including President Donald Trump, have criticized mail-in ballots, stating they could lead to an increase in voter fraud.

Michael Bitzer is a professor of politics at Catawba College who specializes in analyzing American politics, with a focus on the South. He said there has been misinformation circulating in regard to mail-in voting.

“The biggest claim out there currently is probably the unfounded allegations that voting by mail can lead to massive fraud,” Bitzer said. “There is no evidence to that at the levels that certain candidates are promoting.”

Bitzer said he thinks the state has done a lot to ensure the integrity of the mail-in ballot. He said after a controversial election in 2018 in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, the state took measures to try to prevent elections with allegations of fraud from happening again.

“One of the things that was learned after the 2018 9th congressional district fiasco was that people were using the public information of who had requested mail-in ballots to contact them,” he said. “What they have since done is closed off that public information, and that information about who has requested a ballot only becomes public when a ballot is returned and accepted.”

Marc Hetherington is a professor of political science at UNC and an expert in party polarization and what causes issues to become partisan. He said mail-in ballots have become a partisan issue due to certain people from each party taking different positions on the topic.

“There’s always been a tension here between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to voting more generally,” he said. “Republicans at least tend to think that higher election turnout is likely to benefit Democrats, and the reason is because the groups that vote at the lowest rates, tend to be groups that when they do come out to vote, vote Democratic.”

Hetherington said this could explain why the mail-in ballot has become a topic of political debate over the last few months.

Raper said she encourages voters to look into all options when it comes to deciding how to vote this fall.

“If voters wish to vote by mail, they can certainly vote by mail, but we will have safety precautions in place should voters want to vote in person,” she said.

The deadline to request a mail-in absentee ballot in North Carolina is Oct. 27. Mail-in absentee ballots must be returned to the county Board of Elections by 5 p.m. on election day, or postmarked on election day and returned three days after.

@HeedenTaylor

[email protected] | @DTHCityState