Providing help with mail-in absentee voting at facilities
In North Carolina, any registered voter can vote by mail-in absentee ballot. Although it is not necessary to have a reason to vote by this method, some voters find it necessary to vote by mail-in absentee ballot because they are elderly, limited in their mobility, or have a disability. This group of voters includes persons living at facilities such as nursing homes. Oftentimes, these voters require assistance in completing the forms or marking the ballot (also, casting a mail-in absentee ballot requires witness signatures from either two witnesses or a Notary Public). The first preference, according to the law, is for the voter to receive assistance from a near relative or guardian. But some voters, particularly voters who live in facilities, may not have a near relative or guardian available to provide that assistance. It is important to know that employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or rest homes are prohibited by law from providing assistance with absentee voting. So, voters who live in facilities such as nursing homes or rest homes face special challenges in casting a mail-in absentee ballot. But here’s the good news: In every county, an impartial team called a “Multipartisan Assistance Team” is available to visit facilities such as nursing homes in order to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting.
What is a “Multipartisan Assistance Team”?
A Multipartisan Assistance Team, or “MAT,” is a group of persons who has been appointed by the local County Board of Elections office to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting to voters living at facilities such as nursing homes. The makeup of the Team includes, at minimum, persons whose voter registration is affiliated with two different political parties (or, in the alternative, persons who were unanimously appointed by a bipartisan County Board of Elections). So, if you request help from a MAT, you should receive impartial, professional assistance. Their job is to help you vote, but your voting choices will remain confidential.
What does a Multipartisan Assistance Team do?
MATs can assist in requesting or casting a mail-in absentee ballot.
- Requesting a mail-in absentee ballot: To receive an absentee ballot by mail, a request must be made on the official Absentee Ballot Request Form. MATs can provide this form and help you fill it out if necessary. The form is then delivered back to the County Board of Elections office, and the ballot will be mailed to you in the following days.
- Casting a mail-in absentee ballot: If you’ve requested a mail-in absentee ballot, it will arrive in the mail, along with a special return envelope. On the back of the return envelope, you must enter some information and sign your name. It is also required that two witnesses (or a Notary Public) are present while you mark your absentee ballot, and those witnesses sign on the return envelope as well. MATs can help with marking the ballot, completing the required information on the return envelope, and serving as witnesses to the act of voting.
How do I request help from a MAT?
Contact the activity coordinator of your facility. If you do not know who the activity coordinator is, or if there is no activity coordinator, talk to staff or management at your facility. Ideally, the local elections office can schedule a MAT visit to help several voters in one visit, so it is preferable that the visit is arranged by the facility.
If you would like to request an absentee ballot by mail, you can download that form here. The form includes instructions. It can be mailed, faxed or delivered to the local County Board of Elections office. To find contact information for your local County Board of Elections office, click here.
The Absentee Ballot Request Form includes a checkbox to request assistance from a MAT for casting a mail-in absentee ballot. If you check that box, someone from the County Board of Elections will be in contact about arranging a visit.
I work at a facility such as a nursing home. How do I arrange a visit by a MAT?
Click here for an informational document about MATs and assistance allowed at facilities
First, it is extremely important to be aware of the law that prohibits employees of such facilities from providing assistance with mail-in absentee voting. In North Carolina, it is a Class I felony "[f}or any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person, other than the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to (i) make a written request pursuant to G.S. 163A-1308 or (ii) sign an application or certificate as a witness, on behalf of a registered voter, who is a patient in any hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in this State or for any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person other than the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to mark the voter's absentee ballot or assist such a voter in marking an absentee ballot. [...]" N.C.G.S. § 163A-1298(a)(4).
It is most helpful if the facility informs residents about MATs and determines a time when the most voters who need help will be available. That way, the MAT can help the maximum number of voters during the visit. It is also important, if possible, to be familiar whether or not some voters have already received assistance in voting from family members (or if a family member plans to drive the resident to vote in person), particularly if the voter has memory difficulties.
To inquire about scheduling a MAT visit, contact your local County Board of Elections office. Contact information for your local office can be found here.