Mail-in ballots must be received by election night under new state law

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – If you are planning to vote by mail in this year’s primary elections, or any future elections in North Carolina, you need to be aware of a new deadline to send in your ballot.

Under Session Law 2023-140, Section 35, passed with Republican support in 2023, absentee ballots must be received by each county’s board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on election night.

The previous law only required ballots to be postmarked by election day.

North Carolina Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell says the state has had 49,000 requests for absentee-by-mail ballots for this year’s primaries, with 14,000 having already been returned.

“This is higher than what we saw in 2020,” said Bell. “We were just shy of 10,000 returned and accepted absentee ballots back in 2020. So, we’re tracking a little higher and that’s indicative of the fact that a lot of people learned how easy it is to vote absentee by mail.”

The United States Postal Service recommends putting your ballot in the mail one week before your state’s deadline to make sure it arrives on time. Since this year’s primary election is less than a week away, Bell says you should consider delivering your ballot by hand or voting in-person.

“I strongly encourage them to deliver it by hand,’ said Bell. “They can do that to an early voting site before it closes at 3 p.m. on Saturday. They cannot deliver it to an election day polling place, but they can hand deliver it to the county board of elections between now and Election Day by 7:30 p.m.”

Brunswick County Elections Director Sara LaVere says under the old law, the board would receive several ballots after election day.

“We always had ballots that we would have to consider, kind of, scrutinize the postmark,” said LaVere. “Can we read it? You know, is it legible? Is it timely? So, we definitely always had ballots that we would be considering and adding in during pre-canvass that was delivered after election day but postmarked timely.”

LaVere says she has not noticed an increase in the number of people coming to deliver their mail-in ballots in person despite the new deadline.

“I wouldn’t say that it has been drastic or any more than we might normally see,” said LaVere. “I anticipate that might look a little different next week. We will probably have more people coming into the office to make sure it gets here but, you know, who knows?”

You can visit the North Carolina State Board of Elections website for more information.