In 2018, Absentee Ballots by Black North Carolinians Were Rejected Twice as Much as Whites’

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Sep 24, 2020

Black people make up 22 percent of North Carolina’s residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But their 2018 midterm mail-in ballots were rejected more than twice as often as those sent in by white voters, according to data culled from the N.C. Board of Elections’ mail-in absentee ballot data from that year. 

ProPublica report on September 23 detailed an analysis it did with Raleigh-based WRAL News, finding more than 6,000 total ballots from voters of all races were disqualified.

ProPublica reported that Black voters were seeing a 3 percent rejection rate for mail-in ballots, which is nearly three times that for white voters. 

These stats are alarming, considering that interest in mail-in voting has increased as a result of the pandemic. Local election directors told ProPublica that they knew nothing about ballot whitewashing because personal data isn’t available when county boards review votes. Others said that North Carolina’s racial history makes questioning the mail-in ballot process reasonable. 

“There is no intentional malfeasance going on to deny someone their right to vote,” Catawba College professor Michael Bitzer told ProPublica. “But with the history that North Carolina has of Jim Crow legislation, of poll taxes, of active voter suppression that this state has experienced firsthand for over 100 years, there is some reliable resentment and issues to be raised about this.”

ProPublica also reported that 85 percent of voters whose 2018 mail-in ballots were rejected did not vote another way—even though they could have. But a voter has to know their mail-in ballot had been rejected in the first place in order to try different routes.

Back in March during the presidential primaries, North Carolina helped revive Joe Biden’s sputtering campaign when it gave him a resounding 43 percent of the vote. As a battleground state, North Carolina is also important because Black voters disproportionately represent their state’s Democratic Party at 46 percent of those registered. 

To see ProPublica’s complete 2018 NC vote-by-mail analysis, visit their methodology site here.