Officials in North Carolina are scrambling to counteract President Donald Trump’s call for residents of the state to attempt to vote twice in the upcoming contest for the White House, issuing a notice on Thursday warning voters that doing so intentionally is a felony.
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said in the memo to voters that the board also discouraged people from showing up at polling sites on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot had been counted.
“That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19,” Brinson Bell wrote.
North Carolina, a crucial swing state that Trump carried in 2016 and Barack Obama narrowly won in 2008, is due to begin sending out absentee ballots on Friday. Trump is nearly neck and neck with Democrat Joe Biden in the state, according to recent polling.
The president, who has for years spread baseless conspiracy theories about rampant voter fraud, on Wednesday encouraged North Carolina voters to test the state’s election apparatus by attempting to cast multiple ballots, which is a crime.
“So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” Trump said of voters who cast mail-in ballots. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”
Trump doubled down on his misinformation campaign in Twitter posts sent on Thursday morning, urging voters who send in mail-in ballots to go to their polling place on Election Day “to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted).”
“If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do),” he wrote.
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told Fox News on Thursday that the president was “not suggesting anyone do anything unlawful.”
“What he said very clearly there is make sure your vote is tabulated and if it is not then vote,” she said.
Brinson Bell said that there were “numerous checks” in place to prevent individuals from voting twice.
“Electronic pollbooks with information about who has already voted are used at every early voting site. If a voter tries to check in who has already voted, they will be prevented from voting a regular ballot,” she said. “A voter will be offered a provisional ballot if they insist on voting, and this ballot will be researched after Election Day to determine whether it should be counted.”
Brinson Bell encouraged residents who wanted to verify that their ballot was counted to check the Board of Election’s website, where they can track their vote “much like they can track their online order or pizza delivery.”
“North Carolina elections officials encourage voters to request their ballot as soon as possible and return it as soon as they are ready to do so,” she said. “By doing so, you can track your ballot and ensure your vote counts.”
Read Brinson Bell’s full memorandum below.
“Memo sent out: A Message from Karen Brinson Bell to NC Voters
RALEIGH, N.C. – The following is a message to North Carolina voters from Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections:
It is illegal to vote twice in an election. N.C.G.S. § 163-275(7) makes it a Class I felony for a voter, “with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.” Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.
There are numerous checks in place in North Carolina that prevent people from double voting. Electronic pollbooks with information about who has already voted are used at every early voting site. If a voter tries to check in who has already voted, they will be prevented from voting a regular ballot. A voter will be offered a provisional ballot if they insist on voting, and this ballot will be researched after Election Day to determine whether it should be counted.
On Election Day, voters who have voted absentee are removed from the pollbook, which is updated before voting starts at 6:30 a.m. Absentee ballots that are received on Election Day are not counted until after the election, and this prevents double voting.
Also, the State Board conducts audits after each election that check voter history against ballots cast and would detect if someone tries to vote more than once in an election. Because absentee ballots and early voting ballots are retrievable, if someone tries to get around the system, their ballot can be retrieved and not counted, so it will not affect the outcome of an election.
The State Board has a dedicated investigations team that investigates allegations of double voting, which are referred to prosecutors when warranted.
If you request an absentee by-mail ballot but decide later that you would like to vote in person instead, you may. You should discard your absentee ballot. Do not send it back in.
If you have already placed your ballot in the mail but are not sure whether it has been accepted by your county board of elections, North Carolina offers a few ways to check the status of your absentee by-mail ballot without leaving your home.
1. Check your voter record at the State Board’s Voter Search Tool to find out whether your ballot was accepted by your county board of elections. This information will appear in the voter record after a ballot has been accepted.
2. Sign up for BallotTrax, when it launches in the next few days, to track your ballot through the system. BallotTrax is a new service that will allow voters to track their ballot through the mail and confirm receipt by the county board of elections, much like they can track their online order or pizza delivery. When it launches, a link will be available at NCSBE.gov.
3. Contact your county board of elections if you have questions about their ballot status.
The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted. That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.
North Carolina elections officials encourage voters to request their ballot as soon as possible and return it as soon as they are ready to do so. By doing so, you can track your ballot and ensure your vote counts.”