Gary Bartlett was the Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Elections for 20 years from 1993 until 2013, and during his time in that position he helped lead a massive overhaul of the state’s voting practices. Tasked with bringing the state into compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1992 – better known as the Motor Voter Law ‒ Bartlett introduced numerous innovations in registration, in technology used in voting and in the voting process itself.
Under the NVRA Bartlett helped implement in-person voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies as well as via a mail-in form prospective voters could submit. Procedures put in place during Bartlett’s tenure that helped to maintain the accuracy of the voter role included monthly checks of felony reports and death reports, elimination of duplicate registrants and no-contact mail checks. North Carolina also put in place a system that allowed voters to check their registration status online prior to an election.
Bartlett also introduced technology that placed bar codes on ballots to ensure voters received their own and put in place regulations for uniform documentation for elections. Other new programs instituted during Bartlett’s tenure helped regulate the certification for election officials and the proper maintenance of election equipment throughout the state.
Perhaps most significantly, Bartlett paved the way for a mass expansion in voter turnout in North Carolina with the introduction of provisional and no-excuse absentee voting. Provisional voting allowed for voters to cast their ballots outside of their own precinct and provide a form that explained why they were eligible to vote, and Bartlett helped to mandate that all provisional ballots would be counted prior to the announcement of election results.
No-excuse absentee voting allowed voters to either vote early or mail in their ballots to avoid standing in long lines on Election Day. Bartlett was also personally involved with ensuring disabled voters would have the means to cast their ballots, both with absentee voting procedures and ensuring that precincts would be handicap-accessible if at all possible.
Bartlett’s responsibilities also included oversight of county election boards to ensure that they correctly managed all primary and general elections on a regional level. All officials involved in election procedure inside North Carolina either directly or indirectly reported to Bartlett.
Prior to serving on the state’s Election Board, Bartlett helped direct the campaign for N.C. Congressman H. Martin Lancaster, and from 1991 to 1993 he was a legislative assistant for Lancaster, serving as the Congressman’s dedicated staff member for the Small Business committee.
Bartlett now works as an independent consultant based out of Goldsboro, N.C. The businesses he currently consults include FairVote and Wayne First. He also is a hospice volunteer for 3HC at Kitty Askins Hospice and Crystal Coast Hospice.
Bartlett graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 with a B.A. in history. He has been awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, Goldsboro’s “Young Man of the Year” honor in 1983 and the God and Country Award.
Bartlett is married to Mary Howard Bartlett, and the couple has one son, Will Bartlett.