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Impact of COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has had the following impacts on North Carolina’s elections (Updated March 2020). For the latest information, visit the State Board of Elections’ Coronavirus Hub at ncsbe.gov/coronavirus.

*NEW* Online Voter Registration Options 

On March 30th, the State Board of Elections and N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles launched a service to allow NCDMV customers to apply to register to vote or update existing voter registration information online. This is a standalone service that does not require the user to complete a NCDMV transaction, such as a license renewal or duplicate, at the same time.

The free service comes at a time when many county boards of elections have limited access or are closed to the public, and while residents are being asked to stay home because of the spread of COVID-19.

Existing NCDMV customers with a North Carolina driver’s license or NCDMV-issued ID may apply to register to vote or update voter address or political party information through the NCDMV Voter Registration web page. The application currently does not allow voters to change their name.

Closure of County BOE Offices

In response to local restrictions, many county boards of elections offices are closing to the public. For the latest updates, visit the State Board of Elections’ County Updates page. 

Postponement of CD11 Runoff (Second Primary)

Exercising her emergency powers, State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell rescheduled the Republican second primary in the 11th Congressional District to Tuesday, June 23. The contest between Republican candidates Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn, the top two vote-getters in the March 3 primary, had been scheduled for May 12. Brinson Bell’s decision came after consultation with state emergency officials, Republican Party leaders and elections officials in the counties that make up the 11th District. All agreed that moving the second primary to a later date was the right decision in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Executive Order also allows the 17 counties in the 11th Congressional District to move or consolidate voting precincts, if necessary because of the pandemic, for the second primary ONLY and with the approval of the State Board executive director. This is to make sure that polling places are available and will be adequately staffed for in-person voting.

“No Excuse Required” Absentee Voting By-Mail

The State Board is reminding North Carolinians that all voters can vote by mail during every election, casting a ballot without leaving the comfort of home. No excuse is necessary. The State Board office and Task Force are discussing ways to make voting by mail easier, while making sure that the 100 county boards of elections can process an expected increase in mail-in ballots. Learn more about the absentee voting by-mail process here. 

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.

Protecting Voters in the 2020 General Election

The State Board of Elections on March 26 released a list of legislative recommendations to help make voting in North Carolina safe and accessible in 2020, despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, made the recommendations in a letter to Governor Roy Cooper, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and other state legislators.

The recommendations center around three main themes:

  • Modifying the absentee by-mail voting process to ensure it is simple and accessible to North Carolina voters, and making changes designed to help county boards of elections process a significant increase in by-mail ballots;
  • Ensuring that an adequate number of poll workers are available to work at early voting sites and Election Day polling places; and
  • Providing funding to help cover costs associated with necessary changes in elections processes, the anticipated increase in by-mail voting, the sterilization and ongoing cleaning of polling places and voting equipment, and proper protections for poll workers and voters.

North Carolina has two elections remaining in 2020: a Republican second primary in the 11th Congressional District on June 23 and the statewide general election on November 3. Brinson Bell said the plan of state elections officials is to ensure that voters have all three voting options – absentee by-mail, in-person early voting and Election Day – available to them this year.

On March 19, Democracy North Carolina submitted a letter to the State Board of Elections offering initial ideas on election administration responses to the challenges posed by COVID-19. The letter was developed and endorsed by a slate of pro-democracy organizations, including ACLU of North Carolina, Common Cause NC, and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. Recommendations include:

  • lowering the barriers for absentee voting;
  • preparing for potential poll worker shortages; and
  • implementing an online voter registration system (which has now been implemented, see above).

To learn more about how you can advocate for better for access in the age of coronavirus, visit demnc.co/takeaction.