How to Vote in North Carolina
This section describes the ways to vote, including voting early, using an absentee ballot, or voting on Election Day – and what to do if you have not registered or if you have recently moved.
- What are the dates I need to know for the 2016 Elections?
- Do I need a photo ID to vote?
- How do I use a special provisional ballot if I don’t have an acceptable ID to vote?
- Where and when do I vote on Election Day?
- How can I vote early?
- What if I can’t vote in person?
- What if I have a disability?
- Where do I vote if I’ve recently moved?
- What if I have a problem? What is a Provisional Ballot?
What are the dates I need to know for the 2016 Elections?
Important election dates to save and share for the November General Election:
Friday, September 9 – Absentee voting by mail begins for the November General Election. Download an absentee ballot.
Friday, October 14 – Voter registration regular deadline for the November General Election. Check your registration.
Thursday, October 27 – Early voting period begins for the November General Election. Find your early voting location.
Saturday, November 5 – Early voting period ends at 1 PM for the November General Election.
Tuesday, November 8 – Deadline for absentee ballot request to be received.
Tuesday, November 8 – 2016 Statewide November General Election. Polls are open 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM; deadline for receipt of absentee ballot (or if clearly postmarked that day). Check out your ballot and districts.
Tuesday, November 15 – Final vote count (Canvass Day), includes all valid provisional and absentee ballots.
Do I need an ID to vote?
The ID requirements are being challenged in court; to be safe, be prepared to follow the requirements. The requirements, contained in two laws, say you can vote with or without a photo ID. They are described in detail at this special website and on this handout. Here are the basics:
Starting in 2016, you will need to show an “acceptable photo ID” to vote inside the polling place with a regular ballot. The acceptable IDs are: (1) a NC driver’s license or DMV-issued ID; (2) US passport; (3) US military or veterans ID card; (4) member card of a federal or NC recognized Indian tribe; or (5) an out-of-state driver’s license, but only if you vote within 90 of when you first register to vote in NC. A student ID or government employee ID is not acceptable.
If you don’t have one of the acceptable IDs, you have at least 3 options:
- Get a “free” photo ID for voting from the NC DMV;
- Vote by mail using an absentee ballot; or
- Vote at the poll with a special provisional ballot, which the law says “shall” count if you: (1) fill out a form to explain a “reasonable impediment” for why you don’t have an acceptable ID, and (2) write in your birth date and last 4 digits of your Social Security number, or show the poll official your registration card, utility bill, bank statement, pay stub or any government document with your name and address.
There are also exceptions if you have a physical disability that allows you to use curbside voting or if you have a religious objection to being photographed for an ID. For more details on the photo ID requirements, see www.GotIDNC.com.
How do I use a special provisional ballot if I don’t have a photo ID?
You may vote with a special provisional ballot if you don’t have one of the acceptable photo IDs for voting. Poll officials should provide you with a form that you can fill out explaining why you haven’t been able to get an ID. There will be 8 options that you can check, including lack of transportation, disability or illness, lack of birth certificate or other documents, busy because of work or family duties, or lost or stolen ID. This is a sworn statement. As long as you don’t give a silly reason, mock the law (“because the ID law is stupid”), or just write “I don’t have it today,” your provisional ballot is supposed to count. You will ALSO have to provide them with either the last 4 digits of your Social Security number and your birth date (on the form) OR show them a voter registration card, utility bill, pay stub, bank statement, or any government document with your name and address. You’ll get an 800# to learn if your provisional ballot was counted.
Where and when do I vote on Election Day?
Your polling place depends on what precinct you live in; the polling location is listed on the voter card you were mailed after you registered. If you don’t have your card (and you do not need it to vote), you can find your polling place on the Board of Elections “page” with your registration by clicking here or at the League of Women Voters site in periods close to an election by clicking here.
It is important that you vote in your home precinct on Election Day. If you vote in the wrong precinct’s polling place on Election Day, your ballot probably will not count. Some people go to an Early Voting center on Election Day, but that will not work unless it happens to be your own precinct’s polling place.
All polling places are open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM on Election Day. If you are in line at 7:30 PM, you will be allowed to vote.
How can I vote early?
Beginning 12 days before an election, all NC counties must open at least one location where citizens can vote early. This is sometimes called “One-Stop Absentee Voting” or “In-Person Absentee Voting” because you are voting early in person and you will be “absent” on Election Day. (You can also vote early by mail with an Absentee Ballot.)
Any voter in the county can use any of the Early Voting sites in the county. You do not need an excuse to use Early Voting.
The location and hours of the Early Voting sites will be posted here when they are announced. You can also contact your county Board of Elections for Early Voting sites and times, because those will vary from county to county. Many counties have sites open on evenings and Saturdays, or even a Sunday. At least one site in your county will be open for a few hours on the Saturday before Election Day (3 days before Election Day), which is when Early Voting ends.
Note: All ballots cast early by eligible voters are counted and help determine the election winner, just like the ballots cast on Election Day. It is a myth that they are not counted the same.
What if I can’t vote in person?
If you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day, you have the option to send your vote via mail using an absentee ballot.
To request an absentee ballot, you or a near relative must submit an Absentee Ballot request form to your county Board of Elections (be sure the request is signed). This request can be made as early as 50 days before the election, but it must be received at the county Board’s office at least 7 days before Election Day, by 5 PM.
What if I have a disability?
People who have visual, physical, cognitive or mental disabilities have a right to vote, protected by federal and state law. You have the right to receive assistance when you are voting, but a poll worker is not allowed to offer assistance – you have to ask for it. If you have a disability or difficulty reading (due to language ability, vision, etc.), you can ask for assistance from any person of your choice, except not an agent of your employer or union.
You can also remain in a car and vote from the curbside of the polling place if you would have difficulty going inside, due to your age or a physical disability. A poll worker will bring the ballot to you.
You may want to contact your county Board of Elections and ask them about the accessibility of your polling place or an Early Voting location. You have the right to request another permanent polling place in advance of the election if yours is inaccessible.
Where do I vote if I’ve recently moved?
If you registered to vote but have moved since then, where you vote depends on how long you’ve been at your new address.
If you moved to a different precinct in the same county less than 30 days before the election, you can vote at your old precinct’s polling place on Election Day. If it has been more than 30 days, you can either (1) go to your old precinct, ask for a “transfer,” take it to your new precinct’s polling place and vote, or (2) go to your new polling place and ask for a Provisional Ballot if your name is not on the voter roll.
The most convenient and reliable way to vote if you have moved within you county but have not updated your registration is to vote at an Early Voting site during Early Voting.
If you moved to a different county, then you need to register like a new voter by submitting a registration form 25 days before the election.
What if I have a problem? What is a Provisional Ballot?
If the election officials can not find your name on the list of registered voters when you go to vote, or if you encounter any other problem, you have the right to receive what is called a “Provisional Ballot.” You will have to fill out a form in addition to your ballot; the form helps the officials research your registration history. If your eligibility to vote is verified, your ballot will count like a regular ballot. You will be given a phone number and PIN number or a website to use to check the status of your Provisional Ballot and learn if it has been approved or rejected.