Monday, April 13, 2020

Investigating North Carolina's Absentee by Mail Vote Method

By Michael Bitzer

With the current discussion about voting by mail and its potential use for the 2020 elections, both for primary and general contests, and the possible partisan ramifications of this vote method, North Carolina has utilized absentee by mail voting as one of its voting methods for elections since the early 20th Century. Along with absentee onestop voting (which was introduced in 1977 and is in-person, no excuse voting during a window of time before an election) and Election Day in-person voting, absentee by mail voting is one of the top three forms of casting ballots for voters in the Old North State.

In researching North Carolina politics for nearly twenty years, I have data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections regarding both registered voter information and voter history (meaning, data on each voter who cast a ballot, along with their vote method--but not their vote choice). Recently, I presented research at the Citadel Symposium on Southern Politics regarding "A Matter of Electoral Convenience: Early Voting in North Carolina, 2004-2018" that prompts me to write this blog post, for public awareness and education on North Carolina's use of voting by mail.

Based on this research, I want to briefly summarize what political scientists know about "convenience voting," the term related to voting other than on Election Day (many people may refer to it as 'early voting,' 'voting by mail,' or 'absentee voting'). First, I'll cover some general observations about convenience voting and absentee by mail voting based on research by political scientists, and then an in-depth exploration of the data related to absentee voting, especially by mail, in North Carolina and in the 2016 presidential general election.

What is known about absentee/convenience voting?