Who can vote in which elections?
To vote in North Carolina, you must be:
- Registered to vote with your county Board of Elections;
- A U.S. citizen;
- At least 18 years old by the day of the General Election;
- A resident of the county for at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote;
- A person who is not serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole.
A 17 year old who is registered and who will be 18 on the day of the General Election can vote in the Primary on contests that will appear on the General Election ballot.
You do not have to vote in the Primary to vote in the General Election.
You may not vote in the Primary Runoff (also called the Second Primary) unless you were registered at the time of the original Primary.
You do not have to register again each time you vote. You only need to register again if you move, change your name, or after you finish a felony sentence (including any probation or parole; an outstanding restitution payment, similar to a civil fine, does not affect your right to vote).
- What if I’m a student?
- What if I have a criminal record?
- What if I have a disability?
- I’m Unaffiliated, can I vote in primaries?
- What are my rights as a voter?
Can college students vote?
Under NC law, where you vote depends on where you call “home.” You have two choices if you are a student who has moved away to attend school and has no firm intent to return to a certain address after graduation:
- You can declare your old address (probably a parent’s address) as your home, because that’s where you return periodically; in that case, you may register and vote in your old hometown.
- Or you can declare your new address as your home, because that’s where you return day after day. In that case, you may register and vote in your new town.
You have to choose: It’s a serious crime to vote in two places in the same election. If you are already registered to vote in your hometown and now live in another community, you can vote by mail by requesting an Absentee Ballot or you can take advantage of Early Voting on a trip home during the Early Voting period. If you want to register or change your registration to a new address, follow the guidelines in our How Do I Register to Vote? section.
Can I vote if I have a criminal record?
If you are convicted of a felony, you temporarily lose your citizenship rights. But you automatically get your rights back after you finish your sentence, including any probation or parole. You do not need a special document saying your rights are restored. You just register to vote like any other citizen. If you were registered before your conviction, you will need to register again.
An outstanding payment of restitution or a civil fine does not affect your voting rights.
It does not matter if your felony conviction occurred outside North Carolina; as long as you have finished your sentence, you are eligible to register and vote. Follow the guidelines in our How Do I Register to Vote? section.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, even if you are in jail, or if you are awaiting trial, you do not lose your right to vote. You can follow the guidelines in our How Do I Register To Vote From Jail? and Absentee Ballot sections.
For a guide to voting rights of ex-felons and misdemeanants, click here.
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 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
I’m Unaffiliated. Can I vote in the primary?
If you registered as an Unaffiliated voter and want to vote in the Primary, you can ask for a Republican, Democratic, Libertarian or Nonpartisan ballot. Your choice does not change your Unaffiliated status or obligate you to vote for a party’s candidates in the General Election. However, if there is a Primary Runoff, you can only participate in the Runoff of the same party that you selected in the original Primary.
What are my voting rights?
Your right to vote is protected by the NC Constitution and a set of state and federal laws. For a basic overview of your rights in North Carolina, please see this NC Voter’s Bill of Rights.