North Carolina voters are among those in the spotlight this election as the state plays a key role in the Electoral College path to the White House. Throughout October, Sightline has been analyzing North Carolina’s absentee ballot return data. North Carolina’s data is more accessible and more detailed than most other states, providing the opportunity for in depth analysis. Our previous articles parsed the data to date by voters’ race, by party, and by county

North Carolinians voted absentee in record-breaking numbers this general election. More than 920,000 absentee ballots have already been accepted to be counted. Among those, 5,000 ballots were initially rejected but voters used the cure process to fix the problems and get their vote counted. But more than 22,000 absentee ballots are currently not being counted. More than 6,000 voters have initiated the cure process to fix any problems. If successful, their votes will be counted. That still leaves 15,336 North Carolina voters who submitted their ballot but forgot to sign or to get a witness to sign (around 10,000) or forgot to write their witness’s name and address (around 5,000). Unless these voters go through the process to cure those problems by November 12, their vote won’t be counted. The margin of victory in the presidential race and US Senate race could be in the thousands, so every one of those rejected absentee votes could make a difference. 

  • North Carolina voters who submitted an absentee ballot and want to make sure it counts can check the status of their ballot here

    Chart 1: Thousands of North Carolina absentee votes will not be counted unless voters take action. 

    More than 15,000 North Carolina Voters Still Need to Take Action to Fix Problems with Their Rejected absentee BallotsRejected Ballots by Race

    Black voters were less likely to vote by mail, and more likely to have their ballots rejected. Of the 22,000 ballots that are not yet accepted to be counted, more than half are from white voters and more than one-quarter are from Black voters, even though white voters made up 68 percent of all absentee ballots returned, and Black voters made up only 15 percent. Including the initially rejected but now cured ballots as accepted, Black voters absentee ballots are still being rejected at more than twice the rate of white voters: 4.5 percent for Black compared to 1.8 percent for white. If all the voters who have started the cure process (teal in the Chart 2, below) successfully get their vote counted, that would bring rejection rates down but slightly increase the racial disparity—3.1 percent of Black absentee voters would still be rejected compared to 1.3 percent of white (see Table 1). 

    Of the 4,567 Black absentee voters that can still cure their ballots, 64 percent live in just nine counties: Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Cumberland, Forsyth, New Hanover, Durham, Pitt, and Gaston.

    Chart 2: Black voter make up 15 percent of absentee voters but 28 percent of rejections

    Rejected Absentee Ballots In North Carolina by RaceTable 1: Even after the cure process, Black voters absentee ballots are disproportionately rejected in North Carolina 

    Race Total Absentee Ballots Returned Initially Accepted Accepted after Cure Process Rejected Percent Rejected Pending Cure Percent rejected if all pending cure are accepted
    White 653,783 638,132 3,428 11,502 1.8% 3,285 1.3%
    Black 147,095 139,100 1,098 6,647 4.5% 2,080 3.1%
    Other/No Information 151,817 147,045 630 3,859 2.5% 1,307 1.7%
    All 952,695 924,277 5,156 22,008 2.3% 6,672 1.6%

    Rejected Ballots by Party

    Democrats voted absentee in higher numbers than Republicans, so it is not surprising that there are more than 8,000 Democratic ballots still needing to be cured in order to be counted, and just 2,500 such Republican ballots. Even if all ballots in the cure queue get accepted, Democrats would still have 5,697 more rejected absentee votes than Republicans. Voters not registered with either party saw slightly lower rates of rejection: 1.9 percent for unaffiliated voters compared to 2.3 percent overall. 

    Chart 3: More Democratic ballots have been rejected than Republican. 

    Rejected Absentee Ballots in North Carolina by PartyTable 2: The cure process does not alter the partisan gap in absentee ballot rejections.

    Party Total Absentee Ballots Returned Initially Accepted Accepted after Cure Process Rejected Percent Rejected Pending Cure Percent rejected if all pending cure are accepted
    Democratic 433,353 418,631 2,354 11,795 2.7% 3,349 2.0%
    Republican 193,821 188,230 1,281 4,094 2.1% 1,345 1.4%
    Other 325,521 317,416 1,521 6,119 1.9% 1,978 1.3%
    All 952,695 924,277 5,156 22,008 2.3% 6,672 1.6%

    Rejected Ballots by County

    Voters in some counties are determined to have their vote count. More than 90 percent of voters whose ballots were rejected in Union, Johnston, Davidson, and Nash Counties have either already gotten their ballot cured and accepted or started the process. More than half of the voters whose ballots were rejected in Guilford, Durham, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Almance, Catawba, Orange, Randolph, Brunswick, Rowan, Robeson, Wayne, Henderson, and Moore  County have started the process to make sure their vote counts. 

    Forsyth, Onslow, and Robeson Counties are behind the ball — they haven’t accepted a single voter’s attempt to cure their rejected ballot. In Forsyth, Gaston, Onslow, Rockingham, and Burke Counties, fewer than 10 percent of rejected voters have attempted to cure their ballots. Perhaps those county election officials have not yet notified voters that their ballot was rejected but can be fixed.  

    Table 3: In some counties, most voters are making sure their vote is counted by pursuing the cure process.

    Pop.tion Rank County Total Absentee Ballots Returned Accepted Cured – Accepted Rejected (including pending cure) Percent Rejected Pending Cure Percent completed or in cure process
    All 952,695 924,277 5,156 22,008 2.3% 6,672 44%
    1 WAKE 170,437 165,948 362 3,789 2.2% 804 28%
    2 MECKLENBURG 128,702 126,602 87 1,995 1.6% 601 33%
    3 GUILFORD 48,114 45,605 26 2,327 4.9% 1253 54%
    4 FORSYTH 41,227 39,863 0 1,129 2.8% 98 9%
    5 CUMBERLAND 22,470 21,380 137 953 4.2% 390 48%
    6 DURHAM 46,304 45,197 251 855 1.8% 370 56%
    7 BUNCOMBE 35,367 34,024 306 917 2.6% 455 62%
    8 UNION 18,804 18,307 224 220 1.2% 195 94%
    9 NEW HANOVER 26,956 25,219 162 1,476 5.5% 161 20%
    10 GASTON 15,843 15,349 10 433 2.7% 11 5%
    11 CABARRUS 20,604 20,426 115 63 0.3% 2 66%
    12 JOHNSTON 15,048 14,956 88 4 0.0% 0 96%
    13 ONSLOW 8,889 8,747 0 142 1.6% 10 7%
    14 IREDELL 16,566 16,509 14 43 0.3% 0 25%
    15 PITT 10,723 10,246 77 398 3.7% 62 29%
    16 ALAMANCE 14,262 14,002 118 142 1.0% 17 52%
    17 DAVIDSON 11,115 10,826 73 216 1.9% 193 92%
    18 CATAWBA 9,826 9,420 153 252 2.6% 79 57%
    19 ORANGE 25,319 25,029 128 162 0.6% 48 61%
    20 RANDOLPH 7,355 7,015 140 200 2.7% 91 68%
    21 BRUNSWICK 18,234 17,271 312 651 3.6% 213 55%
    22 ROWAN 9,876 9,619 138 119 1.2% 21 62%
    23 HARNETT 8,424 8,141 49 221 2.6% 55 39%
    24 ROBESON 3,452 3,143 0 308 8.9% 217 70%
    25 WAYNE 6,739 6,449 115 170 2.5% 43 55%
    26 HENDERSON 14,882 14,667 118 91 0.6% 52 81%
    27 CRAVEN 8,885 8,485 115 267 3.0% 49 43%
    28 MOORE 10,908 10,583 167 158 1.4% 61 70%
    29 CLEVELAND 5,439 5,319 2 118 2.2% 52 45%
    30 NASH 5,278 5,142 136 0 0.0% 0 100%
    31 ROCKINGHAM 4,218 4,047 0 169 4.0% 0 0%
    32 BURKE 5,089 4,924 1 155 3.1% 0 1%
    33 LINCOLN 6,215 5,969 34 212 3.4% 33 27%
    34 CALDWELL 4,773 4,557 78 129 2.7% 23 49%
    35 WILSON 4,288 4,231 15 41 1.0% 9 43%
    36 CHATHAM 12,051 11,930 18 103 0.9% 15 27%
    37 SURRY 4,691 4,496 61 134 2.9% 21 42%
    38 FRANKLIN 4,190 3,939 42 207 4.9% 131 69%
    39 CARTERET 5,012 4,823 44 144 2.9% 8 28%
    40 WILKES 4,237 4,100 94 43 1.0% 14 79%
    41 RUTHERFORD 4,202 4,013 10 111 2.7% 37 39%
    42 SAMPSON 1,783 1,780 0 3 0.2% 1 33%
    43 PENDER 4,088 4,047 18 22 0.5% 10 70%
    44 STANLY 3,461 3,286 62 110 3.2% 31 54%
    45 HAYWOOD 5,990 5,900 61 29 0.5% 15 84%
    46 LEE 4,006 3,843 51 111 2.8% 41 57%
    47 GRANVILLE 4,083 3,880 72 130 3.2% 59 65%
    48 DUPLIN 1,634 1,617 0 17 1.0% 7 41%
    49 WATAUGA 5,003 4,853 11 139 2.8% 5 11%
    50 LENOIR 2,997 2,858 54 84 2.8% 51 76%
    51 COLUMBUS 1,892 1,779 0 110 5.8% 41 37%
    52 HOKE 2,601 2,554 21 26 1.0% 11 68%
    53 EDGECOMBE 2,068 2,066 0 2 0.1% 0 0%
    54 HALIFAX 1,825 1,777 1 47 2.6% 23 50%
    55 BEAUFORT 2,981 2,726 82 156 5.3% 34 49%
    56 MCDOWELL 1,788 1,661 42 85 4.8% 11 42%
    57 STOKES 2,488 2,419 36 33 1.3% 23 86%
    58 RICHMOND 1,778 1,665 31 82 4.6% 21 46%
    59 VANCE 2,501 2,300 64 137 5.5% 51 57%
    60 JACKSON 2,848 2,676 20 152 5.3% 12 19%
    61 DAVIE 3,008 2,939 23 46 1.5% 9 46%
    62 PASQUOTANK 2,416 2,291 4 121 5.0% 42 37%
    63 PERSON 2,275 2,195 22 58 2.5% 14 45%
    64 YADKIN 2,083 1,984 45 54 2.6% 15 61%
    65 ALEXANDER 1,780 1,685 31 64 3.6% 12 45%
    66 DARE 3,624 3,570 13 41 1.1% 17 56%
    67 MACON 1,926 1,924 1 0 0.0% 0 100%
    68 SCOTLAND 1,553 1,467 37 49 3.2% 12 57%
    69 TRANSYLVANIA 3,870 3,789 21 60 1.6% 7 35%
    70 BLADEN 1,257 1,191 15 51 4.1% 1 24%
    71 CHEROKEE 1,981 1,960 21 0 0.0% 0 100%
    72 CURRITUCK 1,250 1,239 9 2 0.2% 0 82%
    73 ASHE 1,932 1,931 0 1 0.1% 0 0%
    74 MONTGOMERY 1,014 989 11 14 1.4% 4 60%
    75 ANSON 779 753 0 26 3.3% 0 0%
    76 HERTFORD 16 13 0 3 18.8% 0 0%
    77 CASWELL 1,339 1,205 59 73 5.5% 13 55%
    78 MARTIN 1,173 1,071 16 84 7.2% 36 52%
    79 MADISON 1,680 1,634 19 27 1.6% 9 61%
    80 GREENE 906 840 19 46 5.1% 8 42%
    81 POLK 2,568 2,465 32 70 2.7% 9 40%
    82 WARREN 1,316 1,268 10 34 2.6% 3 30%
    83 NORTHAMPTON 978 899 21 55 5.6% 18 51%
    84 BERTIE 776 694 1 81 10.4% 41 51%
    85 YANCEY 1,555 1,494 6 54 3.5% 18 40%
    86 AVERY 889 839 23 27 3.0% 14 74%
    87 MITCHELL 993 974 12 7 0.7% 5 89%
    88 SWAIN 341 336 2 3 0.9% 2 80%
    89 CHOWAN 798 769 7 21 2.6% 2 32%
    90 PERQUIMANS 533 533 0 0 0.0% 0 NA
    91 PAMLICO 1,044 1,040 0 4 0.4% 3 75%
    92 WASHINGTON 641 633 5 3 0.5% 0 63%
    93 GATES 556 539 0 17 3.1% 1 6%
    94 CLAY 754 717 14 21 2.8% 6 57%
    95 ALLEGHANY 727 710 6 11 1.5% 2 47%
    96 CAMDEN 493 474 0 19 3.9% 2 11%
    97 JONES 398 395 1 2 0.5% 0 33%
    98 GRAHAM 356 348 0 8 2.2% 2 25%
    99 HYDE 211 201 4 6 2.8% 4 80%
    100 TYRRELL 77 74 0 3 3.9% 0 0%