Voters in 28 counties impacted by Hurricane Florence will have more flexibility to vote using absentee ballots.
Kim Strach, the executive director of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, has issued an emergency order to address concerns that displaced residents could find it harder to vote this year. The order allows more time for absentee ballots to be received by county election offices.
While the ballots must still be postmarked by Election Day, counties will count any ballots received in the mail by 5 p.m. Nov. 15. Typically absentee ballots must be received by the third day after the election; the extension matches the timeline for overseas and military ballots.
The order also allows voters to return completed absentee ballots to any early voting site or county elections office in the state; they’d otherwise need to make the drop-off within the county where they’re voting, but that might not be a feasible option for displaced voters this year.
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Strach’s order also addresses a possible shortage of polling place officials in hurricane-ravaged counties: The order allows precinct officials who are unavailable to be replaced by officials who live outside the precinct.
“In evaluating the disruption and establishing remedial effects, every effort has been made to treat similarly situated persons equally, while appropriately tailoring relief to offset the nature and scope of the disruption as required by law,” Strach wrote in the order.
The order came days after a request from Democracy NC and the N.C. NAACP, which praised the move as “a victory for voters.”