North Carolina offers early voting as an option for voters, in addition to election day voting. With North Carolina being considered a battleground state, voters worry about about voting machine fraud or malfunction, voter registration glitches, and voter fraud.
Is early voting risky, is it safe, is it prone to fraud? I believe that early voting does have the checks and balances needed to make it as safe as voting on election day. A voter wrote to ask me: “What documentation do poll workers use to verify that someone who has voted early or by absentee ballot does not vote again in their assigned precinct?”
Here is the answer:
The state has checks and balances in place. Up front, we have the poll book records to keep track of who has voted already. Some counties use electronic poll books or laptop computers, and others use paper poll books. To ensure that no one casts a ballot twice, the “one stop” ballots cast are “retrievable” ballots.
An election director explained this to me in some fairly simple language, which I will share with you:
The ballots are retrievable and can be removed from the machine if necessary.
What reasons dictate the removal of a early vote ballot from the machine?
The vote is tied to the voter even on optical scan/paper ballots – we are required to put the ID number on the ballot itself (or enter it into the DRE before the voter votes). The same process is designated on absentee ballots. The reason for this is that absentee ballots including one-stop voters must be approved by the board and can be challenged by any voter. So at the absentee meeting, if it is determined by the board that the voter is ineligble for whatever reason, the ballot could then be removed. Also if the voter votes on election day (which shouldn’t happen but sometimes does) the absentee or one-stop ballot can then be removed and the vote subtracted so that the voter does not have their ballot counted twice.
There is no question that people voting absentee or one-stop give up some of the privacy of the ballot. It is marked with a number that can identify the ballot. However, every effort is made to protect the secrecy of the ballot because for instance if the board is looking at it, they are only seeing the number not a name.
You can also review North Carolina election law, although the references to one stop voting probably need to be updated to reflect that all of our voting systems have “retrievable” ballots, since we passed our paper ballot law in August 2005.
For more detailed legal language see this file of NC Election Laws (rather large PDF) and refer to page 236.
Remember, whatever the process, whether it is casting a ballot, registering to vote, or voting early, its all about checks and balances. And remember, each of the 100 Counties in North Carolina have non partisan Election Directors to administer elections, and they have bi partisan Board of Elections Members, appointed by your political parties to oversea policy decisions. This setup provides great oversight of the process.