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 recently moved.
For more info on your Election Day polling place, see the State Boards of Elections’ Polling Place Search.
For information about registering to vote, see Who Can Vote.
- Do I need a photo ID to vote?
- Where and when do I vote on Election Day?
- What if I can’t get to my home precinct 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?
- Who can vote in a Primary or Runoff election?
- What if I have a problem? What is a Provisional Ballot?
Do I need an ID to vote?
Beginning in 2020, North Carolina voters will be required to provide photo identification when voting in-person or absentee-by-mail, with some exceptions. This requirement is not in place for any election in 2019. (Session Law 2019-4, signed by governor on March 14, 2019.)
In the 2018 general election, 55 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to vote in North Carolina. Subsequently, the N.C. General Assembly approved Session Law 2018-144, which implements the constitutional requirement for voter photo ID.
The new ID law for 2020 would “require” voters to show an acceptable photo ID – but also has exceptions so people can vote in person without one.
ACCEPTABLE IDs. The law says voters should show one of these photo IDs when they vote in person; the ID can be expired for up to one year:
- NC driver’s license;
- Photo ID from your county board of elections; it will be free to registered voters who give last 4 digits of their Social Security # and birthdate (there may be other requirements, as well); and is good for 10 years;
- Non-driver’s ID from NC DMV; it’s free to citizens who show a birth certificate and other documents;
- US passport;
- Enrollment card from a US or NC recognized tribe;
- Student ID from a NC private or public college or community college that follows strict procedures for issuing ID cards, under State Board of Election rules; after 2020, the card must have an expiration date;
- NC state or local government employee ID card issued under strict procedures; cards issued after the 2020 election must have an expiration date;
- US military or veterans card, even if it does not have an expiration date;
- Driver’s license from another state, but only good for 90 days after the person registers to vote in NC.
- If you have an acceptable, unexpired ID at age 65, it’s good for life– its expiration no longer matters.
- The address on your ID does not matter; the law says ID is only used to prove who you are, not where you live.
- Mail-in absentee voters must send a copy of an identity document with their ballot request or with the returned ballot; rules will clarify how this works.
EXCEPTIONS IF YOU HAVE NO ID AT THE POLLS
- You can vote a provisional ballot, but then you must take an acceptable ID to your county elections board by the day before election results are certified (canvass day);
- You can vote a provisional ballot and not show any ID at the polls IF:
- you have a religious objection to being photographed and sign an affidavit affirming your identity;
- you live in an area with a natural disaster declared by the president or governor within 100 days of Election Day and you sign an identity affidavit;
- you sign an identity affidavit and give a reason for not having an acceptable ID. The form for stating a “reasonable impediment” includes such reasons as lack of transportation, disability or illness, work schedule, ID lost or stolen, and “other” with a blank line to fill in. Rules must clarify what’s an acceptable reason.
Where and when do I vote on Election Day?
It is important for you to vote in your home polling place on Election Day.
Your polling place depends on what precinct you live in; the polling location is listed on the voter registration 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.
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.
What if I can’t get to my home precinct on Election Day?
You can cast a ballot that will be counted (at least in part) at any precinct’s polling place in your county. Your vote will count for all contests on the ballot at your home precinct (e.g., mayor, at-large city council, countywide and statewide contests). If you try to vote in the wrong precinct’s polling place but in your correct county, you will be sent to the “Help Desk” and shown how to use a Provisional Ballot. This is called out-of-precinct voting. If you are not offered a provisional ballot in this situation, ask for it.
How can I vote early?
Beginning 19 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.
Early Voting sites and times vary from county to county. Many counties have sites open on evenings and Saturdays, or even Sundays, especially in even-numbered years. At least one site in your county will be open until 1 PM 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 in person, 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. Or, you can use Same Day Registration by going to a One-Stop Early Voting site in your new county during the Early Voting period (You cannot do this on Election Day.)
Who can vote in a Primary or Runoff election?
A Primary election narrows the field of candidates for the General Election. Follow the rules to register to vote to participate in the Primary. 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, even if you didn’t vote in the Primary.
If you are registered as an Unaffiliated voter and want to vote in a partisan 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 if I have a problem? What is a Provisional Ballot?
If the election officials cannot 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, and it creates a record that voting-rights groups can review later to make sure you were treated fairly. If elections officials verify your eligibility to vote, your ballot will count like a regular ballot. You will be given a phone number or website to learn if your Provisional Ballot was approved or rejected, and why.
If you had a problem and were not offered a Provisional Ballot or requested one and were denied your right to receive one, please call our Voter Hotline at 1-888-OUR-VOTE or 1-866-