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.


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.

Military absentee ballots in NC 2008, 61.2% success rate

November 26, 2008

The Associated Press reported in early October that in 2006 only 30% of military absentee ballots were counted, noting that:

“No one keeps centralized records on military ballots or voter turnout. But anecdotal evidence collected from local voting districts, which number more than 7,000, points to ballots that arrived late, ballots not properly filled out and ballots mailed to the wrong location — most of which get discarded. “

In response, The N&O editorialized “The answer ultimately does lie in the Internet, using either a centralized voting system for troops abroad (plugging into precinct-level ballot choices) or through intensified efforts by the states to give military voters a much higher priority and a clearer route to effective participation in the democratic system that they’re protecting.”

I took a few free minutes prior to the Thanksgiving holiday to see how North Carolina did in 2008 in this regard. I analyzed in MSAccess a North Carolina State Board of Elections file on 2008 general election absentee voting, and found that 13,501 absentee ballot applications were received from military personnel using the federal postcard form (it is possible that some already registered military personnel might have used a regular absentee application), and of those 8,262, or 61.2% of the total, were voted, a far better number than the 30% reported in the 2006 study nationwide.

31.6% of the ballots sent out were never returned at all, but there were some smaller categories of nonvoted ballots:

2.4% spoiled (the applicant got the ballot and returned it, asking for another. It is unknown how many of those were eventually voted as they would be lumped in a second time in one of the other categories)

0.5% rejected for no signature

2.2% returned undeliverable

0.4% application rejected (reason not stated in the file)

0.1% returned unvoted

1.5% voluntarily cancelled by applicant

0.01% no application

0.01% “conflict”

0.01% duplicate.

If you exclude the voluntarily cancelled category, the success rate rises to 62.1%. 

The 61.2% successfully voted military ballots compares with an 82.56% success rate for the 259,857 civilian applications from already registered voters, and a 72.23% success rate for the 5,596 overseas civilians using the federal postcard application.

North Carolina begins to mail out absentee ballots 50 days prior to the election, added by a primary election cycle that ends with the second primary in late June. About 20 states have primaries in August and September, making timely mailout and return of absentee ballots more difficult, especially for the military.

I will be in Atlanta December 11 at the NCSL Fall Forum where the issue of improving access to absentee voting for the military and overseas voter will be discussed:

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm Improving the Voting Process for Military and Overseas Citizens
Westin Peachtree Atlanta A–7 Redistricting and Elections Committee

Many legislatures are looking at ways to improve the voting process for Americans who are serving overseas in the military or otherwise are out of the country during elections.

  • Speakers: David Becker, Pew Center on the States, Washington, D.C.
  • Representative Jeremy N. Kalin, Minnesota
  • Senator Cecil Staton, Georgia
  • Steve Wilborn, Uniform Law Commission, Kentucky