As in-person early voting begins, North Carolina elections officials are reminding voters about how they can be confident their vote is counted this election season.
Absentee-by-mail voting began in September. In-person early voting has begun and runs through Saturday, November 5. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.
Depending on which voting method you choose, there are different ways of knowing that your ballot was received and counted by your county board of elections.
If you vote in person, you insert your ballot directly into a tabulator at your voting place. When you do this, your selections are immediately recorded on a memory card in the tabulator. The results stored on the memory card are then imported through a secure process to the State Board of Elections and reported on Election Night as part of the unofficial results.
Every voting machine and tabulator is tested before every election in a process called logic and accuracy testing. Read more at Preparing for Accurate Elections. After these tests, voting equipment is sealed and locked in a secure area until transported to the voting place. Tamper-evident seals are placed on media ports. Voting machines are never connected to the internet, and they do not contain modems. A person would have to have physical access to the machine to install any type of virus or malware.
All votes in North Carolina are cast on hand-marked paper ballots or ballot-marking devices that produce a paper record for tabulation. This paper trail serves as a backup that can be recounted or audited to confirm results.
After every election, multiple audits are conducted to confirm the accuracy of the election. This includes the required sample hand-eye audits that are conducted to verify the accuracy of votes cast by comparing the voters’ choices on paper ballots against the totals tabulated by machines for randomly selected voting sites. Any significant discrepancies in this audit would trigger a total hand-eye recount of the paper ballots. The risk-limiting audit that the State Board is currently piloting would provide even further assurance that the tabulated vote accurately matches the paper ballot record. Read more at Post-Election Procedures and Audits.
Below, please see how you can know that your vote counted, based on your voting method.
If you vote in person during the one-stop early voting period...
Under North Carolina law, votes by mail and at one-stop early voting sites are considered absentee votes. You can find that your vote counted in the “Your Absentee Ballot” section of the Voter Search database. Simply enter your first and last names and county (if desired) to pull up your record.
If you voted during the early voting period, your “Absentee Status” will show “VALID RETURN,” the “Return Method” will be “IN PERSON” and your “Return Status” will be “ACCEPTED.” This status is typically updated by the day after you cast your ballot at an early voting site.
Your ballot status also will show up in the “Voter History” section as soon as your county completes the post-election process of assigning voter history to your record. This may take a couple of weeks or longer.
If you vote in person on Election Day…
When you insert your ballot into a tabulator, your selections are recorded on a media card in the tabulator. These results are counted and reported publicly on election night.
For further confirmation that your ballot was counted, use the Voter Search tool.
Your ballot status will show up in the “Voter History” section as soon as your county completes the post-election process of assigning voter history to your record. This may take a couple of weeks or longer after the election.
Please be assured that your county board of elections will complete this process as promptly as possible amid the other post-election tasks that must be completed, including post-election audits and certification of the results.
If you vote absentee by-mail (including military, overseas, and visually impaired voters who submit their ballot electronically)…
Once your ballot is received by your county board of elections, you can find that your vote counted in the “Your Absentee Ballot” section of the Voter Search database. “Absentee Status” will show “VALID RETURN,” the “Return Method” will be “MAIL” and your “Return Status” will be “ACCEPTED” or “ACCEPTED - CURED”.
Your ballot status will also show up in the “Voter History” section as soon as your county completes the post-election process of assigning voter history to your record. This may take a couple of weeks or longer.
If you cast a provisional ballot…
You will be able to check the status of your ballot 10 days after the election through the Provisional Search tool. You must fill out all four fields on the form, including the PIN number given to you when you voted provisionally, and click “Search.”
What is “voter history”?
Voter history includes the election date, the voting method and your county. For primary elections, it also includes the ballot style (Republican, Democratic, nonpartisan, etc.) that you voted. It will not show who you voted for. That is always confidential.
State elections officials urge voters to use the options above to ensure their ballot was counted. We also urge voters to be wary about what they read online and on social media about elections. If you have questions about the voting process, please reach out to your county board of elections or the State Board.
For more about the security of North Carolina elections, see Election Security. Also see 10 Facts About Election Security in North Carolina.