How to Vote Absentee by Mail
For the 2021 Municipal Elections, not all municipalities offer absentee voting. Check the NC State Board of Elections’ 2021 Municipal Voter Tool to see if absentee voting is available in your municipality.
When should I vote by mail?
If you are returning your Absentee Ballot in person, it must be received by 5 PM on Election Day. If you are returning your absentee ballot by mail, your ballot must be postmarked by 5 PM on Election Day and received no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election. But don’t wait – return your absentee ballot as soon as possible!
You can return your ballot in person by dropping it off at your County Board of Elections Office (before 5 pm on Election Day). Find the address for your BOE office here.
💡 If you return your ballot by mail, you can get a postmark date by taking it inside the post office to the postal clerk.
💡 Only the voter or the voter’s near relative or legal guardian may return your ballot— do not give it to someone else to return.
3 Easy Steps to Vote by Mail
Deadline: By 5:00 pm on the Tuesday before Election Day.
Pro-Tip: Don’t wait for the deadline — submit your request form as soon as possible.
(1) Complete your Absentee Ballot Request Form through the new State Board of Elections ONLINE PORTAL or download and print your ABSENTEE BALLOT REQUEST FORM.
(2) Complete and sign the form digitally or by hand. Include your phone number in case something you write is hard to read.
(3) Return the form via the ONLINE PORTAL or to your COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS OFFICE (CONTACT INFORMATION HERE) in-person or by mail, email, or fax.
If you are unable to use the online portal or to download and print an absentee ballot request form, you can request your COUNTY BOARD mail a blank form to you.
VOTE YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT
After you submit an absentee ballot request form, an absentee ballot will be mailed to you. Mark your absentee ballot that is mailed to you in the presence of one witness. The witness should NOT violate your privacy (i.e, watch your voting choices) while you vote.
Once your ballot is completed, do these three things before your return it:
(1) seal the ballot in the return envelope provided,
(2) complete and sign the Absentee Application and Certificate on the return envelope, and
(3) have two witnesses complete and sign the return envelope in the space designated as Witness’s Certification.
💡 Almost anyone over 18 years old can serve as a witness – including a spouse or other family member.
RETURN YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT
Deadline: 5 PM on Election Day
Pro-Tip: Don’t wait until the deadline to submit your ballot. Vote and return it as soon as you receive it. If you return your ballot by mail, you can get a postmark date by taking it inside the post office to the postal clerk.
You have three options to return your ballot in the provided return envelope:
(1) deliver it in person to your COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS by 5 PM on Election Day,
(2) deliver it in person to an early voting site during the early voting period, OR
(3) mail it to your COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS using a 55 cent stamp with the envelope postmarked by 5 PM on Election Day.
💡 Only the voter or the voter’s near relative, legal guardian, or a Multipartisan Assistance Team (provided by the county) may return your ballot— do not give it to someone else to return.
Voting by Mail FAQ
Any North Carolina registered voter may request and receive a mail-in “absentee” ballot. No special circumstance is needed.
Uniformed service members and U.S. citizens living outside of the country may request absentee ballots under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). For more UOCAVA information, go to FVAP.gov.
When thinking about who can “help” a voter with their absentee form, it’s important to distinguish “helping” (Explaining how to complete the form, sending voters a blank form, etc.) versus “assisting” (a legal definition that means physically completing the form on behalf of the voter — i.e., not simply distributing, explaining, setting up an online submission, etc.).
Absentee Ballot Request Form Completion & Helping
Anyone can show a voter how to use anyone’s cell phone to request a ballot, for example: (1) by opening the State Board’s portal to electronically fill out, sign and submit a request; or (2) by demonstrating how to take a cellphone photo of the voter’s completed paper request form and how to send by email to the appropriate county board.
- Unless qualified to assist a voter, a helper must not fill out the form, in part or whole, or hit send.
- The helper may photograph the request form, upload the photo to an email, type in the election board’s email address, and set up the submission or open the State Board’s portal, BUT the voter must hit Send or Submit.
- It is important to include a phone number on the form in case something is blurry or hard to read.
- Anyone can mass distribute BLANK request forms through mailings, hand distribution, emails/tweets/etc. with links to the form or with an attachment. Forms distributed in mass cannot be partially filled out, for example, with the voter’s name and address.
- Anyone can provide mass instructions for completing and submitting an absentee ballot request during a meeting, webinar, Zoom, website video, etc.
Who is qualified to assist a voter by mail?
A voter’s near relative or legal guardian may assist the voter to complete the absentee ballot request form and absentee ballot. A near relative is: your spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild. If a near relative or legal guardian is not available, any voter may receive assistance from another individual to complete the ballot, but only voters with a disability (including language difficulty) may receive assistance from another person to complete the request form. The assistant must sign and date the certificate in the proper place on the request form and absentee ballot envelope.
A person who assists a voter with completing their ballot may also serve as a witness. Voters should ensure that anyone assisting and witnessing a ballot is eligible to do so. This means the witness/assistant is over 18 years old and is not a candidate for office (unless the candidate is the voter’s near relative).
If a near relative or legal guardian is not available, a voter may also request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT). MATs can help voters complete their absentee ballots, and can also serve as a witness. Call your county board of elections to request MAT assistance. Look up your county BOE at demnc.co/yourboe.
There are additional restrictions on who may assist and serve as a witness for voters who are patients in a facility that provides residential or in-patient health care (such as an assisted living facility or hospital). For these voters:
- If neither a voter’s near relative nor verifiable legal guardian is available, and a MAT is not available within seven calendar days of a telephonic request for assistance, the voter may obtain assistance from anyone who is not (1) an owner, manager, director, or employee of the Facility; (2) an elected official; (3) a candidate for office; or (4) an officeholder in a political party or a campaign manager or treasurer for a candidate or political party. The voter may also not have anyone in categories (1) – (4) witness their absentee ballot.
Important: Only you (the voter), your legal guardian, or your near relative may return your absentee ballot, for example, to a county BOE, or Early Voting location. However, if you require assistance due to a disability in mailing your envelope containing your executed absentee ballot, you may direct that the sealed envelope be taken directly to the closest U.S. mail depository or mailbox by a person selected by the voter.
If you have access to a computer, you can download and complete the form digitally with a digital signature and email it to your county board of elections. The signature must
be unique to the voter and must be readable. Voters may use a pen, or their finger, stylus, or mouse for the signature if they have the capability. Voters may not use a service such as
DocuSign that inserts a typed or cursive font signature that is not made by the voter.
Alternatively, voters can pick up blank copies at their county board of elections office or may call the North Carolina State Board of Elections or their county board of elections and request a blank absentee ballot request form be sent to them by mail, e-mail, or fax.
Voters can submit online requests for absentee ballots through the North Carolina State Board of Elections ONLINE PORTAL.
Voters can submit online requests for absentee ballots through the North Carolina State Board of Elections ONLINE PORTAL.
Your absentee ballot will be mailed to you, and the paper ballot must be returned in the accompanying envelope in-person or by mail to your COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS or dropped off in-person at an early voting site during the early voting period.
A blind or visually impaired voter may submit a ballot through an online portal.
You are not required to vote by mail (even if you request an absentee ballot). As long as you have not returned your absentee ballot, you can still vote in person during Early Voting or on Election Day. But you cannot vote in person after your absentee ballot has been returned.
You will not receive a confirmation mailing from your County Board of Elections if your application is accepted. You will only hear back if your application needs to be corrected or was rejected. You can check the status of your request form by contacting your county board of elections.
The State Board of Elections has not yet posted the Absentee Request Form in Spanish. Check back soon to see if the updated form has been posted.
The facility or facility staff member may provide BLANK absentee ballot request forms but may NOT assist the voter or return a voter’s request form. A voter may use a facility’s fax machine to return their absentee request form; it does not need to be sent from a personal fax machine.
⚠️ No photo ID is required to vote by mail.
Note: If you are voting for the first time in North Carolina and did not provide a Social Security number or driver’s license number with your voter registration application, you will have to submit an identifying document with your name and address (photo not required), like a utility bill, with your absentee ballot. This is relatively uncommon but sometimes happens with people who submit their registration form by mail or a third party— if you think this may apply to your situation, your county board of elections can inform you what information they have on file for you.
The request form will ask for your North Carolina driver’s license or DMV identity card ID number or, in the alternative, the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you do not have access to these numbers, you should contact your County Board of Elections for guidance.
A candidate may not serve as a witness unless the candidate is the voter’s near relative.
Employees of a facility may not serve as a witness for voters in a facility. See the instructions included with the absentee ballot for a complete list of individuals prohibited from serving as witnesses for voters in a facility.
If you wait until Election Day to mail the envelope, go inside the post office and get it hand-postmarked by the clerk. Mail dropped in a blue box or put in your mailbox often does not receive a postmark. You can also submit your ballot in person at your county board of elections. You CANNOT submit your absentee ballot to an election day polling place. Your ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, and it must be received by 5 PM on the Friday after Election Day.
A voter who, due to a disability, needs assistance placing their ballot in the closest mailbox may receive assistance by anyone not disqualified from assisting the voter.
As counties process absentee ballots and find deficiencies, they contact voters to inform them that their ballot was not filled out correctly and how the problem may be fixed or “cured.” NC has a “cure process” in place this year so that in some circumstances voters can validate their ballot without having to submit a new ballot.