Vote absentee in November to avoid possible exposure to coronavirus

Vote absentee in November to avoid possible exposure to coronavirus
April 30
02:15 2020

Seniors are at a higher risk for COVID-19 infection

By Howard Pearre

On Nov. 3, 2020, one of the most important general elections of our lifetimes will occur. At the same time, a resurging coronavirus may require the same social distancing, obsessive hand washing, and self-quarantining we all must practice today to stay safe.

What is not likely is that North Carolina will adopt a secure “vote-by-mail” system, as five other states already use, that would allow voters to stay safe by not having to go physically to their precinct polling places to cast ballots.

For a clue of what could happen in North Carolina for an important election during a pandemic, consider what happened in Wisconsin on April 7:  no “vote-by-mail,” no delay of the primary election to a safer time, no extension for absentee voting, extremely long lines, and a reduction of polling places. The city of Milwaukee had only five of its 180 polls open, and Green Bay had only two of it 31 polls open because of a lack of poll workers concerned about their own safety.

Fortunately, North Carolina law allows for an alternative to in-person voting that is available to every registered voter: no-excuse absentee voting. To vote absentee, you do not need to be “absent” or state a reason. And while absentee voting requires some effort before Election Day, it certainly is doable and it could save your life.  

There are five steps to absentee voting in North Carolina.  

1. Print an Absentee Ballot Request Form from the NC State Board of Elections’ website.  If you do not have a computer or a printer at home, you can call the Forsyth County Board of Elections at 336-703-2800 and ask that a form be mailed to you.  

2. Complete the Absentee Ballot Request Form and mail it to the Forsyth County Board of Elections.  Absentee ballots are available 60 days before the general election. The form must be received no later than October 27, a week before Election Day, but not waiting until the last minute will help ensure your request is not mishandled in the last minute rush. The Board will mail the absentee voting materials to you.  

If you need help requesting a ballot, a near-relative can request it.  A near-relative is a person’s spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, mother- or father-in-law, daughter- or son-in-law, stepparent or stepchild. If a near-relative or legal guardian makes the request, that person must provide their full name, address, and signature. 

3. Receive an official ballot, an official return envelope, and instructions by mail from the Board of Elections. 

4. IMPORTANT: Mark your ballot in the presence of two witnesses who must sign the outside of the envelope. The witnesses should not see your choices (unless you need assistance marking the ballot due to disability) and must be at least 18 years old. One witness may be your spouse. Make sure all parts of the certificate form on the envelope are filled out, including your signature. 

5. Mail it in. To be counted your ballot must be received by the Board of Elections or postmarked no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. However, if you mail in your ballot early enough, you can check online about a week later to make sure it was processed. To do this, do a Google search for “NC State Board of Elections Voter Search” and click on “Voter Search.” Usually, all you need to enter is your first and last name to find your voter information and voting history that will tell you if your ballot has been processed.  

For more extensive instructions about absentee voting, Google search a reliable non-partisan website such as the NC State Board of Elections, YouCanVote, or Democracy NC.

By using the absentee voting option, you can make sure you participate in our democracy and still stay safe. 

Howard Pearre is a member of Winston-Salem Writers and a volunteer coordinator with his political party.

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