Voting used to be just one day a year – the first Tuesday of November. In 2020 in North Carolina, you can also vote on an absentee ballot for no reason at all; you can vote early for two weeks, even on the weekends, or do it the old-fashioned way and vote on November 3rd.
If you choose to vote an absentee ballot you must request a ballot or retrieve one online. Many voters receive unsolicited applications for the absentee ballot in the mail. The unsolicited absentee ballot request forms sent by the Center for Voter Information and the North Carolina GOP appear to be legitimate, according to an election board official quoted by WCNC, but you can double-check with a few quick tests.
- First, does the form match the one published online by the North Carolina Board of Elections? (Here’s a link.)
- Second, is the return address the correct address for your county’s board of elections? (Click that link above and see if the addresses match.)
- Third, has any part of the form already been filled out? If so, you’ll have to toss it. If the form you received in the mail passes those three tests, then it’s legitimate, and you can fill it out and send it in for an absentee ballot. Your request for an application must be postmarked no later than October 27.
The only people who can fill out the ballot are the voter, a near relative or legal guardian of said voter, or a member of a multi-partisan assistance team, according to attorney Antoine Marshall, who recently held a seminar on voting for other North Carolina attorneys. You cannot get help from a political party.
Your absentee ballot voting must be witnessed by someone over the age of 18 and not a candidate unless they are a near relative. The witness then must sign your ballot envelope and also give their address.
You can mail in your ballot, which must be postmarked by November 3rd (with a first-class stamp) or you can take it to your early voting site (see below) or to your County Board of Elections.
If you request an absentee ballot but later decide to vote in person you may do so. But throw away the absentee.
Unlike some states, North Carolina does not wait until Election Day to process absentee ballots. They start as soon are they are received. The State Board of Elections offices states on its website that, “the county board of elections staff reviews each container-return envelope for completeness. Beginning five weeks before Election Day, the county board of elections holds weekly absentee board meetings where the approved ballots are inserted into a voting machine. However, results are not tabulated or reported until Election Day.”
North Carolina has a two-week period of early voting and you can vote on weekends during that time frame. The early voting period is underway, it started on October 15th and ends on October 31st. You can early vote even if you are not registered as early voting allows you to register and vote all at the same time. You can early vote at any precinct in your county. And you can even return an absentee ballot at your early voting site. However, only you, a near relative or legal guardian may hand- deliver the envelope containing your absentee ballot.
Election Day Voting
You can vote in person on November 3rd if you are registered. The polls will be open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. If you are in line when the polls close you can still cast your ballot. On that day, you must vote at your designated precinct.
DON’T BE DENIED YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE
If you are told you can’t vote do not walk away. Ask to vote a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot is used when questions arise about a voter’s qualifications to vote or their eligibility to vote. The typical reasons for a person to use a provisional ballot is if there is no record of registration, an unreported move, they have previously been removed from the voter rolls, they are at an incorrect precinct, have an incorrect party ballot, there is a jurisdiction dispute or they have already voted.
If you ask for a provisional ballot you will be guided to an election official at a help station where you can vote and seal your ballot in an envelope. You will receive a personal identification number (pin) to use to check the status of your provisional ballot. The county board of election staff will research the voter’s provisional issues and determine if the entire ballot or just a portion of it is counted. No election results are certified until the status of all the provisional ballots are determined.
Under Watchful Eyes
Poll Watchers can challenge your right to cast a ballot. Poll Watchers can closely monitor the administration of the election to ensure that votes are being counted correctly and they can even count the voters as they come in to alert candidates or parties about who has voted, attorney Marshall says this helps candidates or parties with their get out the vote effort.
Poll Watchers are selected by the county party chairpersons. Two are designated per precinct and there are 10 at-large observers. They must be registered to vote in the county where they are working and they cannot be a candidate. A person called a “runner” can also be appointed to receive voting lists or counts to return them to the candidates or parties.
Poll Watchers are different from Poll greeters. Greeters, who are last-minute campaigners, have to remain at least 50 feet from the front door of the precinct and cannot come inside.
Covid-19 has changed the way we do many things voting might be one of those. However, there are ways to vote safely and it is important to vote to have your voice heard.
North Carolina has a two-week period of early voting and you can vote on weekends during that time frame. The early voting period is underway, it started on October 15th and ends on October 31st. The three things to remember about this early voting period. You can still vote:
- If you are not registered to vote you can register and vote all at the same time;
- If you need to update your name (i.e.; due to marriage) or your address if you have moved within the same county; and
- At any precinct in the county in which you live. The larger counties, such as Wake, have several polling places. Most small counties allow voting at the County Board of Elections.
You can also return an Absentee Ballot at your early voting site. However, only you, a near relative (a spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, child, grandchild, mother-in-law or father-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law, stepparent or stepchild) or legal guardian may hand-deliver the envelope containing your Absentee Ballot.
If you have questions about early voting, please email Kathy@kathybrownlaw.com.
If and when we do get a vaccine for COVID-19, let’s hope it works. Because if the vaccine causes injury, there will be little to no legal recourse.
In the 1980s, Congress created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. While vaccines are very safe and effective in the vast majority of cases, there is still a small percentage of vaccinations that result in various injuries from the administration of the shot itself to a side effect of the vaccine.
I practice in the Federal Court of Claims, where the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is administered. Injuries such as SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration) and GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome), among others, are eligible for damage awards, and I have represented clients who have received such compensation.
However, early on in this pandemic, a Trump administration rule will bar those injured by any Covid-19 vaccine from accessing the VICP.
Emma Coleman reports in Route Fifty that those who are injured or die from a coronavirus vaccine can instead seek compensation through the rarely-used Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP), which is a different, separate fund run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The problem is, rarely does anyone receive an award from that fund. One vaccine specialist told Reuters that the process was a “black hole” handled by HHS outside the court system. Of the 485 claims filed with the CICP since 2010, only 39 people have received compensation totaling $5.7 million — almost all of them for H1N1 flu vaccines.
While the VICP is funded through a tax on vaccines, the CICP relies on Congressional appropriations via contract. Further, the CICP does not pay legal fees or costs, nor does it award pain and suffering damages. Lastly, while the VICP allows three years to file, with the CICP there is just a one-year deadline during which you can bring a claim. That’s not a very big window.
That’s important, because determining an injury from a vaccine is hardly ever an easy or quick thing to do. I’ve personally handled cases where it took the doctors months or even years to understand, diagnose, and treat the injury, not to mention figure out what caused it.
CICP is essentially designed in such a way as to prevent as few cases as possible from being heard – let alone awarded damages — and their rules are stacked against you right from the start with that one-year window.
Right now, many of those who handle vaccine cases are recommending coronavirus vaccine claims be administered through the VICP — and I agree. That system is better prepared to handle a large volume of claims. The VICP has paid an average of 615 claimants each year since 2015 at a rate of about $216 million annually. The VICP system also pays attorney fees and costs, awards damages for pain and suffering, and allows plaintiffs the opportunity to appeal — which is not available through CICP.
The VICP also has a three-year time frame in which to file your claim. This compensation program, which is still tedious, at least gives the claimant time to figure how and if the vaccine caused the injury, pays an attorney (whether you get an award or not) to help you navigate a complex system, is more likely to give you a fair award if you prove your claim and gives you the opportunity to appeal. We’ll be fighting for that!
April 30, 2020
These are unusual times: scary, uncertain, and, unfortunately, even deadly. But one thing many of us ask: “How can we help?” At Kathy Brown Law, we can help by using our expertise to review insurance policies and insurance coverage. For small businesses wondering if they can stay afloat, their commercial insurance policy may offer a ray of hope. For the lay person, an insurance policy can be complicated to read and even more difficult to understand. Questions arise like what does my coverage entail? How do I make a claim? If the insurance company denies my claim, what are my options?
We stand ready to help you get answers. We will review your policy free of charge! If there is coverage, we will help you file a claim. If a claim is denied, we can help you decide the next steps to take that meet your business needs.
West Virginia’s Insurance Commissioner recently put out a Bulletin telling business owners that “some commercial policies may provide business interruption coverage due to an order by a governmental or civil authority.” WV-Insurance Bulletin 20-8. However, the Commissioner explains, “for coverage to apply, most insurance policies still require a direct physical loss from a covered peril as the underlying cause of the business shut down or closure.”
Many insurance companies have written exclusionary language into policies that may result in a denial of coverage if there is a pandemic. However, that is not the end of the story. Insurance policies can be different, and there may be additional coverage options purchased or endorsements that might apply.
That’s where you may need help and we are glad to review your policy. It can all be done remotely, by either scanning the policy and emailing it to us or
faxing it to our office. We can then have a telephone call or Zoom meeting with you to let you know your next step. Our email address is Kathy@kathybrownlaw.com and the fax number is 304-720-2352. You can always call first at 304-720-2351.
We are all in this together and this is a way we can help! Stay well.
Kathy A. Brown -responsible attorney.