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How to Vote by Mail with an Absentee Ballot

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina elections officials are preparing for a significant increase in ballots cast by mail in 2020. The State Board of Elections and county boards of elections across North Carolina are getting many questions about the absentee voting process.

⚠️ To help voters understand the process, the State Board is releasing “FAQs: Voting by Mail in North Carolina in 2020.

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

⚠️  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.


Follow these 5 Steps to Vote by Mail:

Voters 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 will be able to submit online requests for absentee ballots once the North Carolina State Board of Elections creates the online portal, which should be no later than September 1, 2020.


A registered voter (or their near relative or legal guardian) must complete and sign the ABSENTEE BALLOT REQUEST FORM. An official North Carolina State Board of Elections website for filling out and submitting forms fully online should be ready no later than September 1, 2020— this page will be updated when that happens. Until then, voters can print and submit the form. 


  • What if I need help filling out and returning the form?
    • A voter can seek help from their near relative or legal guardian to complete and sign the Absentee Ballot Request Form. A near relative is the voter’s 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, and a voter needs help completing the request form due to blindness, disability, or inability to read or write, the voter may get help from another person, who must list their name and address on the form.
    • Any voter may request help to complete and submit a request from a member of a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT), which are designated to serve voters residing or staying in facilities that provide residential or in-patient health care. Call your county board of elections to request help.
    • If you have a problem, call our hotline, 888-OUR-VOTE.
  • What if I don’t have the required ID number?
    • 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.


The voter or their near relative/legal guardian (see step one above for qualifying individuals) must sign the request form and submit it to their COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS in person or by email, fax, or mail via U.S. Postal Service, DHL, FedEx or UPS.  An official North Carolina State Board of Elections website for filling out and submitting forms fully online should be ready no later than September 1, 2020— this page will be updated when that happens.

For voters residing or staying in a facility providing residential or in-patient health care, like an adult care facility, a Multipartisan Assistance Team may return the request form.

  • What is the deadline to submit the form? 
    • The request form must be received by the county board of elections by 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day. For the 2020 General Election that deadline is on Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 5 pm.
  • 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.  

3.  Receive the Ballot:

Each county board of elections will mail absentee ballots to registered voters who have made a request. The board will send the following 3 items to the mailing address you provide on the request form (the items cannot be picked up in person):

  • An Absentee Ballot,
  • A return envelope with a certificate statement on it, and
  • An instruction sheet.

4. Mark Ballot, Fill out Certificate on the Envelope:

Mark the ballot with your choices in the presence of one witness who is at least 18 years old and not a candidate in the election in which you are voting. The witness should not violate your privacy while you vote (unless you need assistance due to a disability); the voter and witness (or notary public) must each complete and sign the certificate on the return envelope and provide their addresses. Make sure all parts of the certificate form on the envelope are filled out, including your signature, insert the ballot in the envelope, and seal it.

  • Only the voter may vote their ballot.
    • A voter may receive assistance marking their ballot, but the assistant may only mark the ballot in the presence of and at the direction of the voter.
  • Who may not serve as a witness?
    • 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.
  • You do NOT need to include a copy of a photo ID with your absentee ballot.  

Voters are currently not required to provide a photo ID with their absentee ballot. As of now, both state and federal courts have blocked North Carolina’s voter photo ID requirement from taking effect.

5. Return the Ballot in the Envelope:

Return the ballot in the container-return envelope by mail or deliver in person to your COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS. If returning by mail, the envelope must be postmarked by 5 PM on Election Day. If you are returning the ballot in person, take the ballot to your County Board of Elections office or an open Early Voting site during the Early Voting period. 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. 

  • What if I wait until Election Day to submit my ballot?
    • 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.
  • What if I need assistance mailing my ballot?  
    • 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.

NC Absentee Ballot Request Form

Download the NC Absentee Ballot Request form here to print and submit.