Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — As 2020 winds down, the State Board of Elections is looking back on a busy and historic year in North Carolina elections. County and state elections officials worked tirelessly to ensure registered voters could cast a ballot safely and efficiently amid a global pandemic.
“Disinformation about the 2020 election was and continues to be rampant,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “As a swing state, North Carolina is often a target of these efforts. We want to remind voters that election officials of all political stripes work together to ensure fair, accurate and accessible elections. State and county election officials in North Carolina have worked extremely hard this year. We are public servants, not the enemy.”
This year, elections officials:
1. Launched a new and improved State Board website –NCSBE.gov
♦ The website is more accessible and navigable, mobile-friendly, and translatable to several languages. On Election Day alone, more than 280,000 users visited the new website.
2. Launched an online absentee ballot request portal in September
♦ This allowed any registered voter to make an online request for their ballot to be mailed to them.
3. Improved the absentee ballot return envelope
♦ The new envelope includes step-by-step instructions to help voters ensure their by-mail ballot is counted. About 98% of returned absentee by-mail ballots were accepted in the general election. In the 2016 general election, about 97% were accepted.
4. Created an accessible online absentee ballot for visually impaired voters
♦ The accessible ballot allowed the visually impaired to request, complete and submit their ballot online.
5. Introduced an absentee ballot tracking service
♦ Through BallotTrax, absentee by-mail voters could track their ballot from their request to acceptance by their county board of elections.
6. County boards of elections mailed more than 1.35 million absentee ballots
♦ The State Board and county boards of elections prepared for an unprecedented number of absentee ballot requests, and for good reason. More than one million North Carolina voters cast ballots by mail in the 2020 general election, more than five times the number in 2016.
7. Sent voters the 2020 Judicial Voter Guide
♦ The State Board mailed the 28-page voter guide to more than 4.7 million households across the state. The guide informed voters about judicial candidates, voting options, election dates and more. The guide also included a pull-out absentee request form. The State Board made the guide accessible and available online.
8. Increased the State Board’s social media presence
♦ The State Board increased the amount of posts across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to better inform the public about the upcoming election.
9. Held virtual State Board meetings
♦ The State Board of Elections conducted 20 meetings in 2020, most of them remotely, to ensure the safety of board members and the public during the pandemic. While people could not attend in person, they were able to watch or listen online.
10. Made election data more accessible and released more data than ever before
♦ Designed and launched webpages dedicated to Voter History Data, Voter Registration Data, and Provisional and Absentee Data
♦ Responding to public demand, released daily data reports for absentee ballot requests and absentee ballots cast
11. Expanded sites and hours during the early voting period for the 2020 general election
♦ The 471 early voting sites and 77,887 early voting hours statewide for the general election were both state records.
12. Provided personal protective equipment for election workers and voters
♦ Every election worker was given PPE, and each voter had access to a mask if they chose to wear one. There were no reported COVID-19 clusters tied to NC voting sites.
13. Provided single-use pens for every voter
♦ To curb the spread of COVID-19, the State Board shipped more than 6 million single-use pens to county boards of elections. The pens allowed voters to show their voting pride on social media.
14. Worked to staff each county with election workers for the 2020 general election
♦ The State Board launched the Democracy Heroes campaign to ensure each county had enough poll workers for the election. More than 57,000 North Carolinians completed the survey, and more than 30,000 workers served this election season. Ultimately, all counties hired enough workers.
15. Coded, tested, and printed ballots for the primary, second primary and general elections
♦ In all, there were 6,580 unique ballot styles created for NC elections in 2020 to guarantee that all voters could cast the correct ballot, based on their residence and voting districts. This year, 100% of county boards of elections used paper ballots; electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper ballot were no longer in use.
16. Allowed voters to register to vote online
♦ Through a partnership with the NCDMV, NCDMV customers now may register to vote or update their registration online. In 2020, about 500,000 people used this service.
17. Allowed UOCAVA voters to submit their absentee ballots online for the first time
♦ More than 27,000 military and overseas voters submitted their absentee ballots online.
18. Certified three elections
♦ After post-election audits, the State Board certified the March 3 primary election, the June 23 second primary in the 11th Congressional District, and the November 3 general election. More than 7.7 million ballots were cast in North Carolina in 2020.
19. Completed two recounts in the NC Supreme Court Chief Justice contest
♦ The county boards of elections completed a statewide machine recount and a sample hand-to-eye recount in the Chief Justice contest between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Paul Newby. With the recounts, the boards were able to ensure accurate results for North Carolina voters.
20. Scanned and made publicly available thousands of campaign finance disclosure documents of political candidates, political parties, and committees
♦ The State Board Campaign Finance Division scanned more than 12,700 documents, imported more than 8,000 campaign reports, and set up or modified organizational paperwork for nearly 4,300 committees. These reports help voters understand how candidates raise and spend campaign dollars.