How BallotTrax works in NC: A use case

A mural at Centro restaurant, with creative from When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization that encourages all eligible voters to vote, led by former First Lady Michelle Obama.

More people are voting by mail for the 2020 election — 11 times more than 2016 at about this time, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Voting by mail is one option for North Carolina voters — you don’t need a reason to request an absentee ballot. And now, there’s a new way to follow your ballot.

BallotTrax is a new tool for NC voters to track the status of their absentee ballot by mail. You can sign into the BallotTrax website to follow your ballot through each step of the process. Email notifications and text notifications are also available.

After hearing about BallotTrax, I was ready to try it out. Here’s how it’s worked for me so far.

Sept. 22: I requested my absentee ballot by mail online. The online process is faster from receiving the request via mail, because it skips a time-consuming data entry step, according to elections officials on a call with journalists last month. [request your absentee ballot]

Signing into BallotTrax on Sept. 29, I see:

Sept. 27: Ballot Requested. “Your absentee ballot request for the upcoming Election has been received and we are preparing to mail your ballot.”

Sept. 29: Ballot Outbound. “Your ballot for the upcoming Election has been mailed to you. Normal delivery time is 7-10 days.”

I signed up for text message notifications as well, and received a text message with the Ballot Outbound note.

Oct. 2: I received my ballot in the mail, 3 days after the Ballot Outbound message, which is shorter than the normal delivery time of 7-10 days mentioned in BallotTrax.

Oct. 9: I put my completed ballot in the mail, and it was picked up from our home that afternoon.

Oct. 9: ✅ Ballot Inbound. I received a text message notification Oct. 10 morning (which I’d signed up for) with a Ballot Inbound message, also on the BallotTrax site: “The Postal Service has indicated to us that they have your ballot, and it is on its way to your County Board of Elections office.”

I originally said BallotTrax notified me that my ballot was inbound on Oct. 10. But on the website, the date for Ballot Inbound is Oct. 9; the text was received shortly after 8 a.m. on Oct. 10 because I limited the notification hours on the website from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Oct. 11: ✅ Ballot Accepted. Originally, I thought there would be a notification for Ballot Received and Ballot Accepted, based on the greyed-out options I’d seen in the list earlier. However, I did not get a message for Ballot Received, just Ballot Accepted.

With the notification that my ballot has been counted through absentee vote by mail, my voting plan is complete.

How it worked:

  • My vote by mail took 19 days in total.
  • Because I took 5 days to fill out my ballot at home with my witness, it would have taken 12-13 days if I’d voted right away.
  • The period between requesting an absentee vote by mail ballot was the longest length of time. It was 5 days between requesting my ballot online and receiving the Ballot Requested message in BallotTrax.

While my ballot was received and accepted quickly, there’s no reason to wait if you wish to vote by mail.

The latest you can request a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. Oct. 27. Other options besides mailing it back is taking it to an Early Voting site from Oct. 15-31 or the Board of Elections Office any day they’re open before 5 p.m. Nov. 3. [read more]

See more of your elections-related questions here, including when your mail-in vote is counted, how the process works to fix an error on a ballot, and how to hand deliver your mail-in ballot.

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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