After a visit to North Carolina by President Donald Trump, state and local elections officials are warning voters not to try to cast more than one ballot in the general election.
Trump visited Wilmington on Wednesday and gave a V-J Day speech in front of the Battleship North Carolina Memorial. It was for an event to designate the city as the first World War II Heritage City, according to the Associated Press.
While in Wilmington, Trump also encouraged those who cast votes by mail to cast another in person as a check to see if the mailed vote was counted.
“They'll go out and they'll vote and they're going to have to go and 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,” Trump said in an interview with WECT-TV at the Wilmington airport. “And if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they'll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.”
Trump made a similar appeal in remarks to supporters at the airport.
“You can’t let them take your vote away; these people are playing dirty politics — dirty politics. So if you have an absentee ballot or, as I call it, a solicited ballot ... you send it in, but I would check it, in any event, I would go and follow it and go vote," he said.
On Thursday, Karen Brinson Bell, executive director for the N.C. State Board of Elections, sent out a release to warn voters it is against the law to vote twice in an election. It is a Class I felony that carries a sentence of three months to a year in jail.
Bell said there are numerous checks in place in North Carolina that prevent people from double voting.
Debbie Mace, director of elections for Burke County, said the elections system alerts staff if any one person has more than one vote.
“A person cannot have two votes in their name,” Mace said. “It kicks it out.”
The state board also is alerted, she said. And those who have voted twice or willingly tried to vote twice will be investigated by the state board, Mace said. Bell said the state board has a dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting, which are referred to prosecutors when warranted.
“You can’t vote twice and think nobody would know,” Mace said. “It don’t work that way.”
Mace said if a voter requests and sends in a mail-in ballot, they should not also try to go vote in person during early voting or on Election Day.
Bell said electronic poll books with information about who has already voted are used at every early voting site. If a voter tries to check-in who has already voted, they will be prevented from voting a regular ballot, she said. A voter will be offered a provisional ballot if they insist on voting, and this ballot will be researched after Election Day to determine whether it should be counted.
On Election Day, voters who have voted absentee are removed from the poll book, which is updated before voting starts at 6:30 a.m., Bell said. Absentee ballots that are received on Election Day are not counted until after the election, and this prevents double voting, she said.
Bell said the state board also conducts audits after each election that check voter history against ballots cast and would detect if someone tries to vote more than once in an election. Because absentee ballots and early voting ballots are retrievable, if someone tries to get around the system, their ballot can be retrieved and not counted, so it will not affect the outcome of an election, she said.
Mail-in ballots started going out Friday to voters who have requested them, Mace said.
North Carolina offers a few ways to check the status of your absentee by-mail ballot without leaving your home.
- Check their voter record at the state board’s voter search tool to find out whether their ballot was accepted by their 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 a pizza delivery. When it launches, a link will be available at NCSBE.gov.
- Contact their county board of elections if they have questions about their ballot status.
- Bell said the state board of elections strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted. That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19, she said.
- Elections officials say voters should request their mail-in ballots as soon as possible and return them as soon as possible.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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