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December 02, 2023

Public comment period opens on request related to signature verification for Absentee Voting

The State Board of Elections has opened a written public comment period for a request by the North Carolina Republican Party for the State Board to authorize county boards of elections to scrutinize voter signatures on absentee ballot request forms and absentee ballot return envelopes, to determine whether to count those ballots in North Carolina elections.

North Carolina law currently requires an absentee voter to confirm their identity by having two witnesses or a notary attest that the voter completed their ballot. This request seeks an additional layer of verification for absentee voters.

Read the Republican Party’s request for a declaratory ruling, which was made on May 14, 2022.

The public comment period will be open from Friday, June 10, 2022, through Tuesday, July 5. Members of the public may comment in the following ways:

State Board staff will compile the comments and post them online before the State Board meets to consider a ruling on the request, likely in mid-July.

Specifically, in addition to confirming that the voter’s ballot was properly witnessed, the request seeks to also allow county boards of elections to compare the signature on an absentee document with the voter’s signature on their voter registration documents, which are kept on file with the county boards. The request also asks that the county boards be able to “exhaust all available resources to confirm that the signature provided on an absentee container-return envelope is that of the purported voter.”

The State Board’s current guidance to county boards of elections is not to use signature verification in the consideration of absentee returns. Under state law, each absentee by-mail voter must have two witnesses or a notary attest that the voter completed their ballot in the witnesses’ presence. Verification of the voter’s identity is completed through this witness requirement. State law does not explicitly address the comparison of voter signatures.

The request for a declaratory ruling is a process authorized under a provision of the North Carolina Administrative Procedures Act, N.C.G.S. § 150B-4. That statute allows individuals to request a ruling to resolve a conflict regarding an interpretation of state law or a rule adopted by the agency.

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