The reasons to vote before Election Day (Nov. 3) are more compelling than ever this year and North Carolinians have two choices for doing so: by absentee ballot or during the early, one-stop voting period.

The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is 5 p.m. Oct. 27 and the deadline for turning it in is 5 p.m. Nov. 3.

You must be a registered voter to vote absentee or on Election Day. The registration deadline is 5 p.m., Oct. 9 at the Wilkes Board of Elections office and certain other locations.

Local early, one-stop voting, when you can register to vote and vote at the time and place, is Oct. 15-31. This includes from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the first two Saturdays (Oct. 17 and 24) and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the last Saturday (Oct. 31). Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays.

There are two early, one-stop voting sites in Wilkes: the Wilkesboro Civic Center on School Street in Wilkesboro and the Edwin H. McGee Center on Fairplains Road, North Wilkesboro. Either can be used, regardless of where you live in Wilkes.

Extensive COVID-19-related security is planned in early, one-stop voting and on Election Day.

On Sept. 4, North Carolina became the first state to send out absentee ballots for the 2020 election. On Sept. 1, the N.C. Board of Elections launched an absentee ballot request portal at https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home.

Voters can also download absentee ballot request forms from the state board website at https://s3.amazonaws.com/dl.ncsbe.gov/Forms/NCAbsenteeBallotRequestForm.pdf. Complete and sign the form digitally or by hand. Include your phone number in case something you write is hard to read.

Return the completed form via the online portal or to the Wilkes County Board of Elections office by mail, email, or by fax.

The state board reported that of 10,380 absentee ballots returned to county boards by Friday, 9,966 had been accepted. State board records show 130 absentee ballots of people registered to vote in Wilkes County were received by Friday,

By Friday, 3,305 registered voters in Wilkes County had requested absentee ballots. These included 1,349 people registered as Democrats, 1,209 as Republicans, 731 unaffiliated, 14 Libertarian and two Constitution.

Also on Friday, the state board launched an online service called BallotTrax for people to track the status of completed absentee ballots they returned by mail. BallotTrax is available on the State Board of Elections’ website (NCSBE.gov) at https://northcarolina.ballottrax.net/voter/.

With a BallotTrax account, a voter can log in to view the status of an absentee by-mail request and ballot to confirm that the county board received the request, that the ballot was mailed to the voter and that the completed ballot was received by the county board. Voters can learn if the ballot can’t be accepted due a missing signature, lack of witness information of for other reasons. If this occurs, the county board will tell the voter what to do.

A voter search tool on the state board website at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/ can still be used to learn when a ballot is accepted by the county board. The county board can be contacted about the status of ballots.

North Carolina’s absentee ballots have been redesigned and now require just one witness. No excuse is needed to apply for one.

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, recently issued a press release emphasizing that voting twice in an election is a felony. There are numerous checks in place in North Carolina to prevent people from double voting.

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