Absentee voting statsapalooza

March 22, 2012

Last week I blogged about absentee voting reform in the ’09, ’10, and ’11 North Carolina General Assembly sessions that made it easier for the military and overseas voters to cast timely ballots that would be counted, and that also simplified the process for in country civilians. I first set foot in the General Assembly as a graduate student at Carolina in 1971 (before I went to law school) when I successfully lobbied for legislation to allow absentee voting in primaries (which had been banned since 1939 due to fraud in some sheriffs races.)

I’m going to be tracking especially the military and overseas voting through the calendar year to see if they contribute to ease. I’ve started to gather some statistics for 2012, as ballots began to be mailed out Monday March 19, with the request deadline of May 1 for the May 8 primary. The chart below shows totals as of close of business Wednesday, March 21, 2012 with 6,315 requests received.

tot D R U L


3995 1476 1752 763 4


1371 308 723 329 11


949 398 307 240 4


6315 2182 2782 1332 19
 D  R  U  L


36.9% 43.9% 19.1% 0.1%


22.5% 52.7% 24.0% 0.8%


41.9% 32.3% 25.3% 0.4%

total %

34.6% 44.1% 21.1% 0.3%






























In the chart above:

Civilian includes all persons who are already registered

Military are those on active duty who are NOT registered to vote, and also their spouses

Overseas are those out of the USA, are not registered to vote, and are not military. This category also includes expatriates, those who have left the country, still have US citizenship, and whose last reisdnece was North carolina.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections updates a zipped file each day which can be used for data analysis. The chart shows the three categories crosstabbed by Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and Unaffiliated, and for unaffiliated voters tracks whether they have requested a Democratic (U to D), Republican (U to R), or Libertarian (U to L) primary ballot, or chose to just take the nonpartisan ballot (U to U).  The nonpartisan ballot, which Unaffiliated get if they do not ask for a aprty ballot, and which Libertarians also get because there are no Libertarian primaries this cycle, includes the constitutiojal amendment on marriage, and in some jursidictions district court, superior court, non partisan school boards, and some delayed municipal elections.


Absentee voting reform kicks in

March 13, 2012

After various national studies showed abysmal success rates for military and overseas absentee voters in 2006 and 2008, several pieces of legislation have worked reforms in North Carolina’s process since 2008. Those reforms kicked in partially in 2010 and are being fully implemented for 2012. Absentee ballot mailout for the May 8 primary begins next Monday, March 19, 2012.

First, the 2009 legislative session passed Senate Bill 253 which (i) cut the number of witnesses required for absentee voters from 2 to 1, (ii) provided for ballots to be sent out 60 days before the general election, rather than 50 (it remains 50 for the primary) and (iii) provided that rather than having to be received by the day BEFORE the election, civilian absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day and received by the Friday after the election, and military and overseas ballots have to be received by the Friday after the election (no postmark required for military ballots because military mail tends to NOT use postmarks) — thus extending the back end of the process by 4 days in all elections, and the front end by 10 days in general elections. The 2009 legislation was in part prompted by Congressional consideration and enactment of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act which required states to make reforms in military voting for federal elections.

Second, the 2010 session passed House Bill 614 which ended the practice of automatically sending out ballots to all military voters who had voted in the prior election, return rates were abysmal befause two year old military addresses were in the most case useless. In 2008 just 169 of 1169 military absentee ballots requested prior to 12/31/2007 were voted (14.4%),  compared with a 67% return rate for military personnel who applied after the start of the absentee voting period and a 74% success rate for civilian absentee voting in general.  The 2010 legislation did “grandfather in” military who voted in 2010 so they will still get ballots in 2012, but that process ends after this year.

Third, the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State laws prumulgated late in 2010 the Uniform Military and Absentee Voters Act,  which North Carolina adopted unanimously in both houses by House Bill 514 sponsored by the two current members of the General Assembly then in the military, Representatives Ric Killian and Grier Martin. That bill streamlined the military and overseas absentee voting process, allowed for electronic transmission, and extended the return date for military and absentee voters to the day before the county canvass — this means in the 2012 primary military and overseas ballots will be counted if received by Monday May 14 (six days after the election) and in the general election they will be counted if received by Thursday, November 15, nine days after the election. The deadline for in country civilian ballots will continue to be three days after the election as set in the 2009 reform. The Uniform law has now been enacted in six states (CO, NC, ND, NV, OK and UT) and in the District of Columbia.

Now, for some stats:

In 2008, there were 37,214 mail-in absentee ballots requested for the primary, of which 26,034 were successfully voted (69.96%).  31,698 of the requests were from in-country civilians, with a 74.4% success rate, 4494 were from military voters with a 44.35% success rate, and 1022 were from overseas voters, with a 44.42% success rate. As mentioned above, only 14.4% of the military ballots requsted prior to 12/31/2007 were succesfully voted.

In 2008, on the first day of mailout (50 days before the primary) 7,735 ballots were mailed out. Next week we will be able to see how many ballots are going out first day, Monday March 19, 2012.

I will try to keep up with this during and after the primary and general election process.

New election law lets absentee ballots come in until Friday

May 4, 2010

A new law passed by the General Assembly in 2009 and effective beginning with today’s primary election made a number of changes relating to absentee voting — primarily extending the date for receipt of voted ballots.  Under the old law, ballots had to be received by the county board of elections by 5:00 pm on the day before the election.  Under the new law, ballots can be received up until 5:00 pm Friday after the election, a four day extension.  Civilian ballots received “late” have to be postmarked by the day of the election, while there is no such requirement for military ballots (many military installations do not postmark outgoing mail).

Each county board of elections has to post daily a list of ballots received the extra four days.  The “late” ballots can be counted by the county at anytime from this Saturday through the Tuesday May 11 canvass, with each county deciding when to count.

How many ballots are involved? For civilian ballots, here’s how many were outstanding* through Monday’s mail:

1,346 Democrats

   988 Republicans

         8 Libertarian

   102 Unafiiliated (these will be counted only for nonpartisan races, unaffiliated who chose a party ballot are included in the party categories above.)

I’m going to predict that half the outstanding ballots listed above will be voted by Friday. About 75% of all civilian mailout absentee ballots had already been voted as of Monday.

There were also about 8,500 military absentee ballots sent out, but 7,500 were sent out automatically as required by federal law to all military who voted absentee in 2008 (this was required by a federal law that has been repealed as of this fall’s general election as part of a bill improving other parts of the military absentee process.) As of yesterday, only 3% of those 7,500 ballots had actually been voted. While there are still about 8,100 military absentee ballots still out, I would be surprised if more than 250 more come in voted this week. I have not analyzed these by party.

*I analyzed the absentee data file absentee05xx04xx2010.zip  posted at the SBOE website

UPDATE 5/7/2010:  Tuesday and Wednesday the following ballots came in that would not have been counted under the old law: 437 civilian, 14 military, and 16 overseas ballots.   (Monday or Tuesday I will have information on what was received Thursday and Friday, the final two days)

UPDATE 5/10/2010: With Friday’s deadline for receipt of absentee ballots having passed, the new law resulted in a total of 763 absentee ballots counted that would have been rejected under the former law: 697 civilian, 31 military, and 35 overseas ballots.

More on military absentee voting: 2008 and 1944

December 9, 2008

I posted last month on absentee voting statistics for North Carolina reporting the following percentages of requested absentee ballots that were successfully voted for the 2008 general election:

I’ve gone deeper into the numbers and have found the following:

  1. Analyzing the absentee voter file, I see that 5,991 of the Military applications were already in hand by the counties on September 15, the 50th day before the general election, the first day that state law allows them to be mailed out.  On September 5th, the 60th day before the election, there were already 4,798 military applications in hand waiting to go out.
  2. G.S. 163-247 allows applications from the military to be valid for two general elections.  The file shows that 666 ballots were mailed out this year to the military based on applications from 2005 and 2006, of those 153 were voted (22.9% of the total) while 118 (17.7% of the total) came back undeliverable.  The 118 undeliverable from those 666 old applications compared with 181 undeliverable ballots from the 12,835 military applications that were received in 2007 and 2008. For those 153 voters the continued viability of their applications was very positive, but those analyzing statistics and comparing the military, civilian and overseas rates should be a bit wary. If you exclude the 2005 and 2006 applications from the “success” rate, the successful military ballots voted rises from 62.1% to 64.1%. Still a lot of room for improvement.
  3. The official 1945 North Carolina Manual published on pages 229-230 data on military and civilian absentee applications received for the wartime 1944 Presidential Election. North Carolina received 86,999 military applications, of which 46,583 were voted, 53.54% of the total. For civilians  in the 1944 general election, 25,755 applications were received and 21,268 ballots voted, 82.57% of the total. Interstingly, the “success” rate for civilian absentee voting in 2008 was 82.56%.
  4. When 2,958 federal war ballots (similar to the federal write-in ballots currently allowed when state ballots are late in arriving) received in 1944 in North Carolina are added into the 1944 total, the military voting rate rises from 53.54% to 55.3%.

Back from the early voting front line

November 14, 2008
A few weeks ago I posted about my plans to work for the Wake County Board of Elections at an early voting site. I worked 80 of the 141 hours the Pullen Arts Center early voting site was open (taking annual leave for the hours that fell in my normal workday).
I had done the same for the 2004 general election, and found the process fascinating from the perspective of a pollworker. I spent about two-thirds of my hours checking in voters, giving out authorizations to vote (labeled “application for absentee ballot”, since that what the process legally was, as the voter was absent from the regular polling place on election day).
Read the rest of this entry »

On the early voting front-line

September 12, 2008

I will again be an early voting poll worker beginning October 16 for the Wake County Board of Elections for this fall’s general election. I will be working 73 of the 114 hours the Pullen Arts Center early voting site will be open (and taking annual leave for the hours that fall in my normal workday). Of course, it will wind up being a lot more than 73 hours as those in line when voting hours end each day will be able to vote.

 Vote early! Learn more at WakeVotesEarly.com!

In 2004, I also worked Pullen Arts Center for early voting, pretty much the same hours.  Besides helping out with a civic duty by enabling more people to vote, I learned a lot about the election process.  Some of my observations of the early voting and canvassing process led to some changes in the elections law (Bill Gilkeson and I handle election law drafting for the North Carolina General Assembly). Those changes wound up in two omnibus election bills from the 2005 session:

1) House Bill 1115 of the 2005 Session included these changes as summarized in the bill title: “to permit the same kind of voter assistance in one‑stop sites as at voting places on election day; to expressly provide that precinct transfer voters at one‑stop sites need not vote provisional ballots; to delete the requirement that one‑stop voters be instructed in how to vote mail absentee ballots …to extend for three days the county canvass after a general election in November of an even‑numbered year and change other related dates; to expressly allow electronic pollbooks …”

2) House Bill 128 of the 2005 Session included the following provisions “to authorize county boards of elections to take steps earlier to count mailed absentee votes … and to provide that except for their  ENVELOPE, PROVISIONAL BALLOTS SHALL NOT BE MARKED TO BE IDENTIFIABLE TO A VOTER”

In the 2007 drafting of House Bill 91, I was able to relate to some of the practical issues in same day voter registration.

Here is what the Wake County Board of Elections says about working at the polls:

You want to work election day or early voting — the Wake County Board of Elections still needs people. The county notes:

“Did you know that it takes THOUSANDS of election workers to conduct an election in Wake County?  The Board of Elections is always looking for people to staff Election Day polling places and early voting sites.  Become an election worker and learn about the elections process first-hand while you help bring voting to your community. 

The Board of Elections is recruiting people to staff the 16 early voting sites this fall.  Most positions are full-time, but there are a few part-time evening and weekend positions available.  The pay for these positions will range from $9.75 to $11.25 per hour.

Job Description:
  • Look up voters using a laptop
  • Hand out ballots
  • Provide voter assistance
  • Assist curbside voters
  • Issue provisional ballots
  • Assist voters applying to register & vote at the same time   


  • All employees must pass a data entry test (except for previous early voting supervisors)
  • Must be able to attend one or more 8-hour training classes
  • Must be able to sit and stand for at least one hour at a time
  • Must have reliable transportation