First-year Avery Baker plans to drive with her family over 100 miles outside Chapel Hill and drop off her absentee ballot at the Cabarrus County Board of Elections next week to vote in her first presidential election.
Months of researching local candidates within her area, coupled with the fear of not knowing whether her ballot will get lost in the shuffle of mail or be sent back to her, made the road trip an easy choice.
“I want my vote to count,” Baker said. “So, if I have to take that extra step to deliver it there myself, I will.”
With just three weeks left until Election Day on Nov. 3, Baker is one of 492,825 voters in North Carolina who have requested absentee ballots. Approximately 15,057 of those voters are registered within Orange County, according to data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
But students and faculty are also looking at other ways to vote. While some are sticking to mail-in ballots, others have decided to cast their ballot at a polling site, either before or on Election Day.
When funding for the United States Postal Service was jeopardized in late spring, Melissa DePierro, a senior classical archaeology and art history double major, said she realized she felt safe voting in-person if it avoids the potential risk of her ballot getting lost or backed up in the shuffle of absentee ballots.
DePierro plans to vote at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on East Rosemary Street two weeks from now. She said she plans to bring her travel size hand sanitizer, a set of sanitizing wipes to clean off any pens she uses at the polling station and keep her distance from those around her.
“I get very stressed out over packages being in the mail, so when it comes to voting, I’m even more stressed out,” DePierro said.
Although she voted in the 2018 midterm elections in Raleigh, DePierro said she decided to vote in Orange County this election season to make her voice heard in a county where many college students have moved back home due to the pandemic.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections said in July that election officials are working to produce a safe and accurate ballot count for the 2020 election, despite the pandemic. Absentee ballots have also proved to be a solution for those who wish to keep their distance away from other voters.
UNC law professor Rick Su said he and his wife made the choice to vote by mail upon seeing infection rates surge over the summer, and eventually requested their ballots in August.
Su said the process of filling out the ballot was difficult to navigate on his own and he had to closely analyze the step-by-step instructions to filling out the ballot that came attached to the ballot itself.
“We were attentive and aware, but I could see being confused, especially if you’re not a local or looking at the instructions clearly,” Su said. “That’s an easy one to mix.”
The North Carolina State Board of Elections has outlined several guides to help voters understand the absentee voting process, such as a five-step guide to submitting and tracking mail-in ballots.
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