CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We’ve talked about how to request an application for an absentee ballot, how you will receive it, how to fill it out and send it back and even how to track it to make sure it will get counted. But when we say "counted" we don't actually mean it's counted right away. Absentee ballots are not counted until Election Day.
In North Carolina, the county board of elections reviews each absentee ballot return envelope for completeness. Your ballot will remain in the sealed absentee envelope until it has been fully approved by the board.
Starting five weeks before Election Day, the county board of elections holds weekly absentee board meetings where the approved ballots are inserted into a voting machine.
So are the absentee ballots actually counted then? The short answer, no.
They are "approved," but the results are not tabulated or reported until Election Day.
During the counting process, the ballot is removed from the envelope and fed into the tabulator. Remember, ballots are secret by law, so others cannot know who you voted for. Once you return your absentee ballot and the board of elections approves it, there’s no changing or canceling that vote.
There are similar rules in place for South Carolina. Under current law, election officials do not begin tabulating ballots until Election Day. At 7:00 a.m. on November 1, county officials can begin processing absentee ballots by opening the outer mailing envelopes. They must wait until 7:00 a.m. on Election Day to open the inner ballot envelopes and scan them.
This legislation for processing absentee ballots was passed in September.
Keep in mind the number of people voting absentee this year is record breaking. According to AP News, the percentage of votes cast in advance in South Carolina is up 114.2% compared to the 2016 general election. It is up 195.9% compared to 2018.
The record number of absentee ballots is one of the main reasons why some lawmakers and election officials have started pushing for an extra day to start sorting absentee ballots.