Local Politics

'Your ballot has been spoiled': Early voters receive unsettling text message

Posted October 16, 2020 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 16, 2020 7:17 p.m. EDT

— Although voting by mail has been under scrutiny for months, more than a million people in North Carolina have asked for absentee-by-mail ballots.

State elections officials say they will make sure only one vote counts – either in-person or by mail – and some voters received text messages Friday showing the system is working as intended.

The texts said: "This is a message from the Durham County Board of Elections. Your ballot has been spoiled!”

When Kathe Kaufman, a Durham voter, received that unsettling message, she was confused and concerned.

"What happened to my ballot that I did yesterday? That’s what I immediately thought of," Kaufman said. "The message caught me off guard."

Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said officials hadn't considered confusion over the wording.

“With BallotTrax being brand new, this is one of the things we didn’t consider until it starting happening. It’s being addressed," Gannon said.

The messages go out only to people who requested an absentee ballot but then voted in person during early voting.

The email or text message is being updated to say the following: "Your in-person ballot has been accepted, and your absentee-by-mail ballot has been canceled (spoiled)."

Kaufman said, despite the confusing language, she's glad elections officials are notifying voters of the status of their ballots.

“As ambiguous as it was, it actually confirms that the system is working," she said.

Time is running out to request an absentee ballot

As of Thursday night, nearly 60 percent of requested mail-in ballots had not been returned.

Voting by mail is still an option, but experts recommend acting quickly.

Voters can request a ballot until 5 p.m. Oct. 27.

Remember, it needs time to get to you and get back to local elections officials.

Go to the State Board of Elections website to fill out a request form.

Voters can expect to receive their ballot in the mail within two weeks.

Completed ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day, which is Nov. 3.

Mail-in ballots can also be dropped off at a county board of elections office or at any open early voting site.​

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