Based on information the NC State Board of Elections provided on Thursday, Oct. 1, voting by absentee ballot is proving very, very popular among the state’s voters.

With just under a month to go until the Tuesday, Nov. 3 election, the state reported that county boards of elections have approved the absentee ballots of about 300,000 voters.

Though those ballots are pouring in, the NC Board of Elections is still in the process of determining which ballots will count and which will not. There are several pending lawsuits as to how ballots will be counted and a Federal District Court judge recently issued a temporary restraining order to stop the state’s elections board from making a rule change on absentee ballots that would allow ballots that had not been signed by a witness to be counted in violation of state law.

There are other ballot-related issues up in the air as well as the absentee ballots come in and early voting at polling places is just around the corner.

According to the new numbers from the state, 4 percent of registered voters in North Carolina have already cast their ballots for the 2020 general election. State election officials note that those votes will be counted in unofficial results reported on election night.

“These vote-by-mail numbers are far greater than we’ve ever seen in North Carolina history,” said Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director of the State Board of Elections in an Oct. 1 press release. “They show that the process is working well for the vast majority of North Carolina voters who choose to vote by mail.”

According to that press release, late last month county elections boards across North Carolina began meeting to approve absentee ballots in preparation for those votes to be counted on election night. Those boards will continue to meet at least once a week through Election Day to approve additional ballots.

On Thursday, the Guilford County Board of Elections announced that it has scheduled a meeting for Monday, Oct. 5, at 10:30 a.m. on the lower ground level of the Guilford County Courthouse in downtown Greensboro. That special called meeting will be to preprocess absentee ballots. The meeting will be open for limited in-person citizen participation – 10 pre-registered attendees – however, it can be viewed by all using the virtual platform GoToWebinar.

It’s unusual for the state board to be putting out so much information a month before the election but since there’s been a lot of legal issues surrounding absentee ballots.

State officials also used the announcement to remind voters to fill out their ballots and forms carefully.

So far, according to election officials, “a small fraction” of absentee voters – about 3.5 percent – returned their ballot with “a problem, or deficiency.”

“Those issues can be corrected,” the release states, “either through a certification process or by issuing the voter a new ballot, ensuring that all eligible voters’ ballots are counted.”

“Many voters are casting their ballots by mail for the first time, so some mistakes are expected,” Brinson Bell said. “We strongly encourage voters to carefully read the instructions and be sure to complete all required fields on the envelope. But if they make a mistake, there is still time to fix it.”

Required fields include the voter’s signature and the witness’s printed name, address and signature. Also, if the voter gets help filling out or mailing in the ballot, the assistant’s name, address and signature has to be provided.

Courts are still are determining how elections administrators should handle ballots that are missing a witness signature. Until then, the State Board has directed the 100 county boards of elections to store those ballots securely until there is further direction from the courts.