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Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in the Wisconsin presidential primary election at Marshall High School in Milwaukee. (EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY) Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in the Wisconsin presidential primary election at Marshall High School in Milwaukee. (EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY)

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in the Wisconsin presidential primary election at Marshall High School in Milwaukee. (EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY)

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht April 23, 2020

NC absentee ballots require 2 witnesses. Is that unique?

If Your Time is short

  • Jay Chaudhuri and Natasha Marcus, North Carolina state Senators, want to make it easier for people to vote absentee by mail.
  • In an op-ed, they claim that NC is in the "small minority" of states that require two witnesses to sign an absentee ballot.
  • That's true. NC is one of only three states that require the ballots to be signed by two witnesses if a notary isn't available.

Authorities are trying to figure how they can hold elections while preventing voters from infecting each other with coronavirus.

One idea? Expand the practice of absentee voting.

In North Carolina, top Republicans have said they want to keep the state’s current absentee voting laws. A pair of Democrats -- Jay Chaudhuri of Wake County and Natasha Marcus of Mecklenburg -- have described North Carolina’s absentee rules as antiquated.

"North Carolina is in the small minority of states that requires an absentee ballot to be signed by two witnesses or a notary public," they wrote in an April 10 op-ed on Medium.com.

Is it true that NC is in a "minority" of states that requires two people to witness an absentee ballot? Yes.

Verifying absentee ballots

A breakdown of absentee rules is available via the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan group that tracks various laws in each state.

In most states -- 31 according to the NCSL -- elections boards simply compare the voter’s signature on an absentee ballot with a signature they already have on file for the voter. If there’s a discrepancy, election officials investigate.

Featured Fact-check

North Carolina is one of eight states that requires a witness to sign a voter’s absentee ballot, and one of only three states that requires the ballot to be signed by two witnesses if a notary isn’t available. The other states are Alabama and Rhode Island.

The information on the NCSL website was confirmed as accurate by conference spokeswoman Wendy Underhill.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that North Carolina is the hardest state to return an absentee ballot.

Alabama, in addition to requiring signatures from two witnesses or a notary, requires voters to submit a copy of a voter ID with his ballot.

In Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma, you can’t have just any witness. The ballots are required to be signed by a notary.

Rules for who qualifies for an absentee ballot vary by state, too. 

Our ruling

State Senators Marcus and Chaudhuri said "North Carolina is in the small minority of states that requires an absentee ballot to be signed by two witnesses or a notary public."

According to a nonpartisan organization that tracks state laws, NC is one of only three states (6 percent of the US) that requires absentee ballots to be signed by two witnesses or a notary public. We rate this statement true.

Our Sources

Story by WFAE, "Top NC Republican Dismisses Ideas To Make Mail Voting Easier," posted April 1, 2020.

Op-ed by North Carolina state Senators Jay Chaudhuri and Natasha Marcus, "Republicans Send Wrong Message on Protecting Elections," posted April 10, 2020.

Absentee ballot information on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

Email correspondence with Wendy Underhill, spokeswoman for National Conference of State Legislatures.

Email correspondence with NC state Senators Jay Chaudhuri and Natasha Marcus.

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NC absentee ballots require 2 witnesses. Is that unique?

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