Vote by mail

Local elections officials have received a record number of mail-in absentee ballots as of Oct. 13.

BOONE — Watauga elections officials have accepted 2,760 mail-in absentee ballots as of Oct. 13 — a leap from the 1,244 ballots approved during the 2016 election.

Watauga County Board of Elections members have been meeting twice a week since ballots started pouring in to count and approve each ballot. Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder said the board had 329 ballots to review during its Oct. 13 meeting (included in the aforementioned 2,760 count).

Of the ballots received, Snyder said 1,256 have been registered as Democrat, 994 are unaffiliated, 501 are Republican, eight are libertarians, one is Green Party and none have come from the Constitution Party.

The form now requires only one witness signature, and asks the witness to print their name and list their address with a city, town and zip code. Snyder said this was a little different than before when the form required just the witness’ signature.

When ballots come to the elections office, Snyder said staff identify ballots that have all required information versus those with missing elements or “deficiencies.”

Once those are received by the staff, then the board reviews those. Any ballots with deficiencies are being held separately until the county board receives new guidance from the N.C. State Board of Elections about how to handle them. So far, Watauga has around 22 ballots with identified deficiencies.

Local officials have had to adjust to the number of absentee ballots the office is receiving as well as the social distancing board members are asked to abide by while approving the ballots. Snyder said the Watauga elections office has mailed 6,000 ballots so far to voters. Each ballot is reviewed by the board members to ensure they meet the requirements.

According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, voters can request an absentee ballot by 5 p.m. Oct. 27. Snyder said the county office can accepted mailed-in ballots through Nov. 6 as long as they are postmarked by 5 p.m. on Nov. 3. If ballots are hand delivered, the ballot must be submitted to the office by 5 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Snyder urged voters who are submitting ballots by mail to ask a postal clerk to place a date stamp while in the presence of the voter. He said date stamps are not always put on the ballots, and if by chance the ballot is received by elections officials after Election Day without a date stamp, it will not be accepted. He also suggested that voters read absentee instructions carefully on the back of the forms, as they’re “very specific.”

To receive an absentee ballot, voters must send in a request. Absentee ballot request forms can be found at tinyurl.com/WataugaAbsenteeRequestForm. For more information, call the Watauga Board of Elections office at (828) 265-8061.

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