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2020 election: NC voters applying for absentee ballots at record-shattering pace amid COVID-19 pandemic

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) — North Carolina has “no excuse” absentee balloting. That means whatever your reason, you can fill out an absentee ballot request form, get an absentee ballot and cast your vote without ever exposing yourself at a polling site.

Apparently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears many are opting out of voting in person.

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“We’ve scaled up our processes to make sure that we are able to handle the volume,” Assistant Wake County Elections Director Olivia McCall told ABC11.

Wake County has the largest number of registered voters in the state.

At this point in the 2016 election process, about 3,900 voters had requested absentee ballots. This year, that number is nearly 42,000.

That’s an increase of more than 1,000 percent and well beyond the total of 33,400 absentee ballots cast in Wake County during the 2016 presidential election.

Absentee by mail voting in North Carolina: What you need to know

McCall and her boss at the Wake Board of Elections office expect the number to keep rising.

“We’ve been on this. We’re prepared. We’re ready,” said McCall.

Other major counties in the heart of North Carolina will also need to be ready too, according to state data compiled by political scientist Michael Bitzer.

In Cumberland County, the number absentee requests went from about 900 at this time in the 2016 election cycle to 3,100 so far in 2020.

In Orange County, there were 650 at this point in 2016 and at the same time this year. This year, the number is already more than 8,400.

The applications in Durham County soared from 217 at this time four years ago to 10,300 so far this year.

Statewide numbers are remarkable too.

With just 98 of 100 counties reporting, the current requests have surpassed 232,000.

That’s an increase of more than 900 percent over the 25,000 requested at this point in 2016.

The increases sparked this warning from McCall, “Anybody that thinks that they are wanting to vote by mail or request an absentee ballot, we really encourage them to go ahead and send your absentee request in now.”

You can go online and print the ballot request form or pick one up at your local board of elections office.

It can be returned to the board office by mail, fax or email or deliver it in-person.

The first absentee ballots will be sent out in early September and the US Postal Service is warning voters to return them as soon as possible.

But that’s not the only way to return them.

“You can return it to our office physically at our office or you can put it in the mail or you can return it at an early voting site location,” McCall said.

Current absentee ballot deadline in NC could result in votes not getting counted, US Postal Service warns

The same is true statewide which means we truly have no-excuse voting.

Full details on how to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and return it can be found here.

Confusing absentee ballot requests showing up in your mailbox? Here’s what you need to know

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