An email from the North Carolina State Board of Elections brings good news today regarding the McCain campaign/absentee ballot requests confusion.
Voters will not be disenfranchised as a result of the form leaving off some personal information. At issue - the SBoE asks voters to provide their birthday on requests for absentee ballots - but it turns out that this is not an absolute requirement. Furthermore, if for some reason the Board of Elections cannot verify that the request is coming from the correct voter, they will send a "request for a request" to that person. Other states, like Ohio, are not so fair to voters.
Background: McCain campaign mailers invoked outrage among suspicious democrats in North Carolina (and other states) who were recipients of the unsolicited absentee ballot requests from the republican candidate. Many expressed fear that this was an thinly veiled attempt at voter caging or that the requests would not be accepted by local boards of elections The voters were especially concerned because of reports that the McCain campaign had sent out mailers with incomplete or inaccurate information in at least 9 other states.
Greg Flynn of Wake County wrote about the mailers on Sept 11, 2008 in McCain Confusing NC Republican Voters:
......McCain is telling people to request a ballot on a postcard using their own handwriting with their name, residence, phone number and signature..The critically missing piece information is the date of birth...At first blush this looked like a voter caging exercise but upon review it just seems sloppy. The pre-sorted mailing rate does not allow for returns.
Don Wright, the General Counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections advises today in an email:
It is not required in North Carolina that the date of birth is included on the request for an absentee ballot. It is useful to a county board of elections if there is trouble determining who is actually requesting an absentee ballot (Parent/child with same name at same address, voters with the same name) See the statute below.
§ 163‑230.2. Method of requesting absentee ballots.
(a) Valid Types of Written Requests. – A written request for an absentee ballot as required by G.S. 163‑230.1 is valid only if it is written entirely by the requester personally, or is on a form generated by the county board of elections and signed by the requester. The county board of elections shall issue a request form only to the voter seeking to vote by absentee ballot or to a person authorized by G.S. 163‑230.1 to make a request for the voter. If a requester, due to disability or illiteracy, is unable to complete a written request, that requester may receive assistance in writing that request from an individual of that requester's choice.
(b) Invalid Types of Written Requests. – A request is not valid if it does not comply with subsection (a) of this section. If a county board of elections receives a request for an absentee ballot that does not comply with subsection (a) of this section, the board shall not issue an application and ballot under G.S. 163‑230.1.
(c) Rules by State Board. – The State Board of Elections shall adopt rules for the enforcement of this section. (2002‑159, s. 57(a).)
If the request does not meet the above requirements we send the requesting person the standard request form used by the counties for the requestor to fill out and return. This has been our policy for years.
On September 10th and e-mail went out to the counties reminding them of the policy. That e-mail is set out below.
"We are aware that postcard requests for absentee ballots are being received by county boards of elections. Hopefully this will provide answers to most questions.
If the postcard contains sufficient wording for a reasonable person to know the applicant is requesting an absentee ballot it should be treated as a compliant request and a "simultaneous issuance" absentee ballot should be issued. Date of birth is not a statutory requirement to request an absentee ballot. It is an additional piece of information to assist CBEs in identifying the correct voter.
If the request card does not comply with GS 163-230.2, consider it a 'request for a request' as in previous years.
Johnnie F. McLean Deputy Director (919) 715-1790 "