NC Absentee voting success rate way up in 2012: 90.67% civilian, 76.74% military, 85.97% overseas

November 20, 2012

With reforms I  mentioned previously, the 2009 and 2011 North Carolina General Assemblies made absentee voting easier for civilian, military, and overseas voters, reducing witness requirements, extending return deadlines, and allowing the military and overseas voters to vote with ballots attached to email.

For civilians, the success rate* for absentee requests rose from 82.56% in 2008 to 90.67% in 2012 (it was 85.54% at the old 5 pm day before election cutoff, but another 11,484 ballots came in by the new Friday of election week deadline)

For the military, the ’08 success rate* was 63.74%, but rose to 76.74% in ’12 (73.93% by the old day of election deadline, with another 289 ballots returned by the new 11/15 deadline)

For voters overseas, the ’08 success rate* was 72.23%, but rose to 85.97% in ’12 (83.19% by the old day of election deadline, with another 249 ballots returned by the new 11/15 deadline)

Email balloting was quite popular – 79.88% of overseas voters used email to get their ballot back and forth (plus 0.36% who used FAX transmission), while 57.25% of military used email (plus 0.54% who used FAX transmission)

The table below for 2012 shows each category of ballot and various reasons for lack of success:

civilian % civ mil % mil ovs % ovs
accepted 202870 90.67% 7877 76.74% 7698 85.97%
no ID 202 0.09% 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
e-transmission failure 0 0.00% 22 0.21% 4 0.04%
no application 3 0.00% 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
pending 62 0.03% 4 0.04% 10 0.11%
rejected 388 0.17% 23 0.22% 9 0.10%
after deadline 702 0.31% 7 0.07% 7 0.08%
undeliverable 506 0.23% 138 1.34% 16 0.18%
different signature 45 0.02% 0 0.00% 1 0.01%
signed by other 19 0.01% 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
unsigned 233 0.10% 14 0.14% 13 0.15%
no witness 554 0.25% 1 0.01% 0 0.00%
not returned 18157 8.12% 2178 21.22% 1196 13.36%
TOTAL 223741 10264 8954
cancel/spoil/not voted 9470 349 326
wrong voter/duplicate
date extension extras 11484 85.54% 289 73.93% 249 83.19%
date extension increase 5.13% 2.82% 2.78%

In terms of gross total of voted absentee ballots in each category comparing 2008 with 2012, civilian by mail was 215,257 in 2008 but down to 202,870 in 2012; military was 8,443 in 2008 but down to 7,877 in 2012;  and overseas was 4,098 in 2008 and way up to 7,698 in 2012.

The analysis above was derived from the North Carolina State Board of Elections absentee vote database (warning 102mb zipped file) compared to similar that I ran in 2008 to see changes in success rates for mail-in absentee voters.

In the table

“No ID” — voter had registered by mail but did not have a drivers license or social security match, did not provide same after being requested by county BoE at registration verification and did not supply with absentee ballot

“e-transmission failure” = military and overseas had ballot rejected by server

“no application” voter neither signed ballot envelope nor had it witnessed

“pending” held administratively due to some problem and not counted

“rejected” rejected by vote of county board of elections for unspecified reason

“after deadline” received back by county after deadline for receipts but before 11/19 final file update

“undeliverable” returned by USPS, military or foreign postal service

“different signature” signature did not match records

“signed by other” signature did not match and appeared to be signed by someone else

“unsigned”  ballot envelope was properly witnessed by not signed by voter

“no witness” ballot envelope was properly signed by voter but was not signed by witness

“not returned” ballot was mailed (or emailed) out but never returned by voter.

* “success rate” excludes ballot in the SPOILED, CANCELED, and NOT VOTED statistical categories of the State Board of Elections are used interchangeably.  SPOILED and CANCELLED categories mean that an absentee application and ballot needed to be reissued to a voter for some reason (either by choice of voter or due to administrative reasons) or the voter decided that they did not want to vote by absentee, or the county found that the voter was not qualified to vote by absentee (e.g., voter registered in a new county or was removed for some other reason (voter died, felony conviction, etc.)). NOT VOTED is a category that is used by some counties to mean that the voter decided not to vote by absentee, or the voter returned a ballot and did not vote it.


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