President Trump could perhaps be excused for getting North Carolina voting law wrong on Sept. 2 when he urged his supporters to vote by mail and then go to the polls and try to vote again to make sure their vote gets counted.
The president was quickly told his recommendation was wrong. Voting twice in North Carolina is a felony. But on Saturday, he repeated his error with this tweet:
“NORTH CAROLINA: To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY. When Polls open, go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED. IF NOT, VOTE! Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted. Don’t let them illegally take your vote away from you!”
For a president, this repeated advice to do what’s illegal is astonishing. For Trump, it’s more of the same. He surely knows it’s wrong. He apparently doesn’t care. With him, re-electing Trump trumps everything.
Fortunately, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein quickly took to Twitter and corrected the scofflaw president. He tweeted:
“NORTH CAROLINA: Do NOT do what the President directs. To make sure your ballot COUNTS, sign and send it in EARLY. Then track it ONLINE with BALLOTTRAX. Do NOT vote twice (it’s a felony), or waste your time, or unnecessarily risk exposure to more people.”
Stein, a Democrat, went on to dryly note: “The only GOOD thing about the President’s tweet is that he FINALLY encourages voters to VOTE BY MAIL. It’s an easy, safe & secure way to cast a ballot.”
Other elected officials, especially Trump’s fellow Republicans, should follow Stein in assuring voters that their mail-in votes can be traced and there’s no need to test the system by attempting to also vote in person.
Last week, the State Board of Elections added to voter confidence by announcing the start of the online system Stein mentioned: BallotTrax. Voters who mail in their ballot can be alerted to its path the same way they can track a product ordered online. A mailed ballot can also be tracked by using the voter search tool on the State Board of Elections website, or by checking with one’s county board of elections.
Voters who request an absentee ballot are free to vote in person so long as they do not submit the absentee ballot. Those who do return a ballot by mail will be shown in an electronic pollbook at the polling site as having already voted. If a person insists on voting, he or she will be given a provisional ballot that will be evaluated after Election Day.
Once voters have mailed their ballot, there is no reason to go to the polls. Mail-in voters who show up at a polling site to check on their ballot’s status will only add to long lines and to their risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.
Many North Carolina voters are choosing to vote by mail. The State Board of Elections has received more than 784,000 requests for absentee ballots, requests that represent 10 percent of the state’s registered voters. That share is expected to increase to 30 percent or more by the Oct. 27 deadline for requesting an absentee ballot.
Those who choose to vote by mail are protecting themselves and democracy. Their absence from the polls will make it easier for those who do vote in person to get through the process by relieving pressure on polling sites that are having difficulty finding enough poll workers during the pandemic.
Voting by mail is safe, easy and accurate. A voter has multiple ways to remotely determine whether their mailed ballot has been recorded. The president knows this. That’s why he’s voting by mail in Florida. And that’s why he won’t be walking into a polling site near Mar-a-Lago to check on whether his vote has been counted.