Ask Us: What happens next to ballots from absentee by mail, early voting?

Published 2:28 am Monday, November 2, 2020

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

A record number of locals cast ballots during the early voting period this year, but one reader asked what happens next to ballots between the time they’re turned in and Election Day.

After early voting wrapped up Saturday, 47,620 people in Rowan County had cast ballots during the early voting period. An additional 9,744 people had cast ballots by mail, according to data published Sunday by the N.C. Board of Elections.

Absentee by mail ballots, said Rowan County Elections Director Brenda McCubbins, are kept in a locked and secure location until the next Rowan County Board of Elections meeting. During meetings, board members open and process ballots through a tabulator that counts votes. The ballots are then placed in sealed bags and placed in a secure, locked location, McCubbins said.

Ballots cast during early voting are put in the tabulator by the voter. Each night, McCubbins said, they are placed in a sealed bag and stored in a secure, locked location.

On election night, the totals from absentee by mail and early voting will be uploaded to the N.C. Board of Elections. Those results are usually available online shortly after polls close in Rowan County.

In a news release on Sunday, the State Board of Elections said it would begin posting results publicly after polls close statewide at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. However, the state board could choose to extend voting hours at a polling place if there are interruptions or delays in opening the locations. In that case, no results would be posted until all polls are closed, the news release stated.

In its news release, the N.C. Board of Elections provided the following timeline about how votes would be reported:

• 7:30 p.m.: Polls close.

• 7:30 p.m.–9 p.m.: Counties report results of in-person, one-stop early voting and absentee by-mail ballots received by 5 p.m. Monday.

• 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.: Precinct officials hand deliver Election Day results to county boards of elections offices.

• 8:30 p.m.–midnight: Election Day precinct results are reported; reporting continues until all Election Day results are posted.

McCubbins said absentee by mail ballots received after Election Day, which are allowed until Nov. 12 as long as they are postmarked by Tuesday, would be processed at the next Rowan County Board of Elections meeting, which will occur before vote tallies are made official — a process called canvass.

County boards are scheduled to hold their canvas meetings on Nov. 13. The state is scheduled to do the same on Nov. 24.

In its Sunday news release, the State Board of Elections reminded the public election night returns are unofficial and that its primary objective is accuracy rather than speed. Still, the state projected that 97% or more of all ballots cast in the 2020 general election will be reported by the end of the day on Tuesday.

For questions about voting, call the Rowan County Board of Elections at 704-216-8140.

The elections office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W., Suite D10, in Salisbury.

To check your registration or find your polling location on Election Day, visit: