The news has been full of headlines like “Trump appears to encourage North Carolinians to vote twice to test the system” or “Trump encourages supporters to vote twice, which is illegal.” There was commensurate bloviating on social media, which I will not grace with a link.
So what happened to get folks so riled up?
First, let’s see what Trump actually said in an interview with WECT’s Jon Evans in Wilmington yesterday after Evans asked “600,000 people could vote by absentee in this state. Are you confident in that system?”
“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote (at the poll). If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.
“I don’t like the idea of these unsolicited votes. I never did. It leads to a lot of problems. They’ve got 11 problems already on very small contests. I’m not happy about it. At the same time, we’re in court with a lot of it. We’re going to see if it can be stopped.
“But send your ballots, send them in strong, whether it’s solicited or unsolicited. The absentees are fine. But go to vote and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. That’s the way I view it.”
This is a fairly typical Trumpian word salad, but it is clear that he is not advocating for anyone to vote twice.
What he was advocating is for voters to confirm that their absentee vote was counted by going to their precinct place on election day. If their absentee ballot had been accepted by their county board of elections, then they will not be in the poll books at their local board of elections and will not be allowed to vote in person. If it was not accepted by the day before election day, they will be allowed to vote in person. In either case, they likely will not be charged with a felony (and certainly not convicted) because they did not go to the polling place with “with intent to commit a fraud” (GS 163-275(7)) but rather to make sure that their (one) vote is counted.
(If someone votes in person and their absentee ballot shows up at the county board of elections later, the absentee ballot will be discarded.)
Trump actually makes an important point; you cannot assume that your ballot will be counted just because you mailed it. For various reasons, some ballots that voters mail to their county board of elections never make it. Consider the case of Robeson County Democrat Sylvester Jones in 2018 (The Charlotte Observer):
Sylvester Jones, a 64-year-old resident of St. Pauls who’s a registered Democrat, said two people came to his house before the election to tell him to re-register “just to be sure,” even though his paperwork was in order as far as he knew. They also told him he might have trouble getting to the polls, because he’s disabled, and suggested he apply to vote absentee.
Jones said he made the absentee request, filled out the ballot and mailed it himself. But he remains confused about the process. A month after the election, he wonders whether his ballot was ever counted.
Check your voter record at the State Board’s Voter Search Tool to find out whether your ballot was accepted by your county board of elections. This information will appear in the voter record after a ballot has been accepted.
Sign up for BallotTrax, when it launches in the next few days, to track your ballot through the system. BallotTrax is a new service that will allow voters to track their ballot through the mail and confirm receipt by the county board of elections, much like they can track their online order or pizza delivery. When it launches, a link will be available at NCSBE.gov.
Contact your county board of elections if you have questions about your ballot status.
Any of those methods will allow you to confirm that your vote will be counted without wasting anyone’s time and energy on a trip to the local precinct.
If you vote absentee by mail, follow President Trump’s advice and confirm that your vote will be counted, but don’t do it in the way he suggested.