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Election Guide 2012: North Carolina Details On Voter Registration, Election Day, & Absentee Voting

by Will Johnson
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North Carolina NC Voter Registration 2012 Election Absentee Voting

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The 2012 Election is almost upon us as North Carolina constituents line up at the polls to vote!  Here are the guidelines for Voter Registration in North Carolina along with rules pertaining to Election Day and Absentee Voting in North Carolina!

For South Carolina Voter Registration, Election Day, and Absentee Voting Details, please click here!

If you have questions or experience problems with registering or voting, please call toll-free the State Board of Elections at 866-522-4723 or the Election Hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE or 866-OUR-VOTE.

General Election Schedule

Oct 12
Regular deadline for voter registration
Oct 18
Early Voting and Same-Day Registration begins
Oct 30
Absentee ballot requests due
Nov 3
Early Voting and Same-Day Registration ends
Nov 6
General Election

To vote in North Carolina, you must be:

  1. Registered to vote with your county Board of Elections;
  2. A U.S. citizen;
  3. At least 18 years old by the day of the General Election;
  4. A resident of the county for at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote;
  5. A person who is not serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole.
  • A teenager who will be 18 on the day of the General Election but who is only 17 on the day of the Primary 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 do not have to register again each time you vote. You only need to re-register if you move, change your name, or after you finish your sentence if you are convicted of a felony.

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:

  • You can declare your old address (probably your parents’ 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.

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 all parts of 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.

It doesn’t matter if your conviction occurred outside North Carolina; as long as you have finished your sentence, you are eligible to register and vote. 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.

If you go to register and an election official says you are not eligible because of your record, please call our Voter Hotline at 1-888-OUR-VOTE or 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

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; 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. And if you go to your polling place on Election Day only to find it is inaccessible, you can vote at any other polling place in the county by asking for a Provisional Ballot.

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 the Democratic Party primary ballot, the Republican Party primary ballot, or neither. 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 Run-off, you can only participate in the Run-off of the same party that you selected in the original Primary.

Who can register to vote?

To register to vote, you must be:

  1. A U.S. citizen
  2. At least 16 years old *
  3. A resident of the county for at least 30 days before the election
  4. A person who is not serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole **

* 16 and 17 year olds may register in North Carolina, but they may not vote until the year in which they turn 18. This is sometimes called “pre-registration,” but the same registration form is used.  A 17 year old may register and vote in the Primary if he or she will be 18 on the day of the General Election.

** If you have been convicted of a felony (in NC or anywhere else), you are eligible to register in North Carolina after you complete all parts of your sentence, including probation and parole. Students or members of the military living away from home and people in jail on misdemeanor charges are all eligible to register to vote.

When can I register?

Generally, your registration form must be postmarked or delivered to your county Board of Elections at least 25 days before the election in which you want to vote. However, if you miss this deadline, you can use Same Day Registration & Voting at an Early Voting site during the Early Voting period.

You cannot use Same Day Registration on Election Day.

How do I register to vote?

There are several ways to get a registration form to fill out:

  • Visit your county Board of Elections during regular business hours to register.
  • Download a registration form and mail it to your county Board of Elections at least 25 days before the election you want to vote in.
  • Obtain a voter registration form at any public library – local policies vary on whether they will turn the form in or if you need to turn it in yourself.
  • If you are a student, be aware that high schools are required under state law (NC General Statute 163-82.23) to have registration forms for you to use.
  • Obtain a registration form at your local Department of Social Services or public health office.
  • Register to vote at any Division of Motor Vehicles office when you apply for a new or renewed driver’s license.
  • Register during a voter registration drive. The person taking your completed form must submit it at least 25 days before the next election. They may not pre-mark the form with a party affiliation or destroy the form if they don’t like your choice of a party affiliation.
  • Use Same Day Registration & Voting to register and vote on the same day at designated sites during the Early Voting period. You may not use this option on Election Day!

Before you turn in your registration form, review it carefully. Be sure you sign and date it, fill in all the questions, including your date of birth, and check all the appropriate boxes. Spell out your name as it appears on the identification card you provide. If you do not give your NC driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of your Social Security number, be sure to provide the documents requested on the form, or be prepared to show one of those documents when you first vote in person. Include a phone number on the form; it’s only used by election officials to call you for missing information.

What information do I need to register to vote?

To verify your identity, you must provide your birth date and your NC driver’s license number, if you have one. If not, provide the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you do not have a SSN or NC license, you will need to present another form of identification, either when you mail in the form or when you first vote. Acceptable forms of ID include (1) a photo ID from any business, government or nonprofit, or (2) any one of the following documents, with your name and current residential address:

  • A utility bill from an electric, water, gas, phone or cable company.
  • A bank statement or bank-card statement.
  • A paycheck or pay stub.
  • Any license, registration, permit, invoice, check, letter or any other document from a local, state or federal government agency.

NOTE: Intentionally lying on a voter registration form is a felony – do not give incorrect information.

What happens after I register to vote?

After about two or three weeks, you should receive a voter registration card in the mail with the name and location of your voting precinct and polling place. You do not need to show this card when you vote; it just helps you remember where your polling place is. Still, it’s good to take it to the polls just in case. If you have not received your card within three weeks of registering, you should call your county Board of Elections and make sure your voter registration form is being processed. You can also search on-line to see if you are registered.

If you still have not received your card by the time Early Voting begins, you should start over: Use Same Day Registration & Voting to register in front of an election official.

How can I find out if I am registered to vote?

Use the State Board of Elections voter search engine to see if you are on NC’s voter rolls. Type your first and last name as you think they appear on the registration form; don’t include a middle name. Keep in mind that it can take a couple of weeks for your information to be added to the registration rolls. If you do not find your name on the rolls after three weeks, or if incorrect information is listed, please contact your county Board of Elections.  You can also fill out another form and submit it if you can turn it in before the 25 day registration deadline; there’s no penalty for registering twice at the same address.

Miss the deadline? Use Same Day Registration

North Carolina allows citizens to register and vote on the same day at Early Voting sites during Early Voting periods (19 to 3 days before the day of each election). You can not use Same Day Registration on Election Day.

To use Same Day Registration & Voting:

  • Go to an Early Voting Site in your county. To find the location and hours of these sites, contact your county Board of Elections.
  • Show the election official your proof of residence (see list below).
  • Complete a voter registration form.
  • Cast your ballot.

Here are the choices of ID to present, with your name and current residential address:

  • NC driver’s license.
  • Utility bill from an electric, water, gas, phone or cable company.
  • Bank statement or bank-card statement.
  • Paycheck or stub.
  • Student ID and a document from the school with the student’s address.
  • Any local, state, or federal government document with your name and residential address, such as a car registration, fishing license, military ID, Social Security letter, or tax bill.

All registrations go through a verification process that includes confirmation of your driver’s license or Social Security number, a check for duplicate names in the statewide registration file, and mail verification of your address when your voter card is sent. If your ID or address turns out to be false, then your ballot is pulled and your choices will not count.

Note: Using a fake ID or intentionally providing false information on your registration form is a felony.

Do I re-register if my information changes?

To avoid problems when you vote, you should fill out a new voter registration form if:

  • You change your address.
  • You change your name.
  • You change your party affiliation.

To re-register, you can visit your county Board of Elections, take advantage of Same Day Registration & Voting during the Early Voting period, or download a registration form and mail it in.

If you are changing your address to a new county, be sure to provide your previous address or at least the old county in section 7 of the registration form, in order to cancel your prior registration. Also fill out this section if you are changing any other information, including your name or your party affiliation.

If you moved within the same county and forgot to change your registration in time, you can vote at an Early Voting site during Early Voting. It helps to change your registration as soon as possible. Your county Board of Elections depends on an accurate count of voters in each precinct to plan staffing – clean voters rolls can mean shorter lines at the polls.

Can I register if I’m in jail?

If you are serving a felony sentence, you cannot register or vote until you have completed the terms of your sentence, including probation and parole. After that, you can register like any other citizen.

If you are in jail awaiting charges or trial, or if you are serving a sentence on misdemeanor charges, you have the right to register and to vote. (You have not lost your citizenship rights.) You should follow the same instructions on registering to vote as anyone else, keeping these special address considerations in mind since you will have to select a mail-in registration option:

  • It is important to provide an address where your mail will be accepted and received. If you give an address and your voter card is returned to the Board of Elections as undeliverable, you may not be able to vote.
  • If you have a home address where you still receive mail, even if it is in a different county, use that as your residential and mailing address when you fill out the registration form. You will need to mail your registration form to the Board of Elections in that county; this is the same Board where you will write to request an Absentee Ballot when the time comes to vote.
  • As an alternative, you can use the jail’s address where you receive mail and mail your completed registration form to the Board of Elections in the same county as the jail; this is the same Board where you will write to request an Absentee Ballot when the time comes to vote.

Your voter card will be mailed to the address that you put down as your mailing address. If you have not received a voting card within three weeks, you can search your registration status on-line or contact the Board of Elections. You will vote using an Absentee Ballot in the county you mailed your registration form to.

What is youth pre-registration?

Under North Carolina law, 16 and 17 year olds can pre-register to vote by using the regular registration form and checking a special box for youth. The voting age doesn’t change, but the new law aims to boost youth participation by engaging teenagers at the age they get their driver’s license or take civics in high school. If they complete the registration form, they will become automatically registered when they reach voting age and will receive their voter card in the mail at that time. The NC Civic Education Consortium has developed two lesson plans (Can You Hear Me Now and How Do I Pre-Register) for high school teachers, as well as an accompanying power point presentation. Please help more teachers and teenagers become aware of pre-registration.

Absentee Ballots

How can I vote with an Absentee Ballot?

You can vote through the mail by using an Absentee Ballot. The process has several steps:

  • Request:  You or a near relative must write your county Board of Elections and request an Absentee Ballot (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 least 7 days before Election Day, by 5 PM.
  • Receive Ballot: The Board will send these items to the mailing address you provide (the items can not be picked up in person):
    • An Absentee Ballot,
    • A return envelope with a certificate statement on it, and
    • An instruction sheet.
  • Mark Ballot, Fill out Certificate, Return in Envelope:  You 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. The witness should not violate your privacy as you vote (unless you need assistance due to a disability); he or she must sign the certificate on the return envelope and provide an address. Make sure all parts of the form on the envelope are filled out, then insert the Ballot in the envelope, and seal and return it as instructed to your county Board of Elections.

To be counted, the Ballot must be delivered to the local Board by 5 PM of the day before Election Day, or it must be postmarked at least on Election Day and arrive in the mail by 5 PM three days later.  The Ballot can be handed delivered only by the voter or the voter’s near relative.

Here are additional rules about voting with an Absentee Ballot:

  • An Absentee Ballot can be requested by any registered voter or the voter’s near relative. Near relatives include a parent, legal guardian, spouse, sibling, grandparent, child, grandchild, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, step parent or step child.
  • A separate Absentee Ballot request must be made for the Primary and General Election, unless you are in the military or if illness or physical disability renders you unable to go the polls during an entire election cycle. Under those circumstances, you can ask for a Primary and General Election Ballot with a single request. You will need to renew this request each year.
  • The request must be written entirely by the person making the request – it can be typed, but no form letter or pre-completed application can be used. You should provide this information:
    • Voter’s name.
    • Voter’s street address – it should match the voter’s registration address.
    • Address where the Absentee Ballot should be mailed.
    • The voter’s date of birth.
    • The signature of the voter or the near relative making the request.
    • If the requester is a relative, list the person’s name, address and relationship to the voter.
    • Provide a day-time phone number or email address in case your Board of Elections needs to contact you.
  • Voters outside the U.S. or in the military may have the option of faxing or scanning their Absentee Ballot request and sending it in as an attachment to an email – contact your county Board of Elections for details. An email request must contain all the information listed above, including a signature. Keep in mind that email from other countries may be blocked by spam filters. If you do not receive an acknowledgment after several days, you may want to try another method, such as mailing or faxing in your request.
  • If you are registered as an Unaffiliated voter and request an Absentee Ballot for the Primary, you may request a Ballot for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. If you do not specify a party’s Primary Ballot, you will receive a Ballot without any partisan races on it. (Note: If you are registered with a party, you do not have a choice; you will receive the Primary Ballot for your party.)

If you vote using an Absentee Ballot: Don’t forget to vote for judicial candidates on the non-partisan section of the Ballot.

What is “straight-ticket” or “straight-party” voting?

Straight-ticket or straight-party voting is a way to vote for all the candidates of the same political party on the ballot by marking one box – except in North Carolina, when you make that choice, it does NOT include the presidential contest. You have to make a separate choice for your preferred presidential candidate.

After you mark the box to vote straight-party, you can still vote for another party’s candidate in a specific contest; that choice will overwrite your straight-party vote but just in that specific contest.

Note: Be sure to vote in the non-partisan contests, including those for judges. Non-partisan contests are not included in straight-party voting.

Where and when do I vote on Election Day?

Your polling place depends on what precinct you live in; the polling location is listed on the voter card you were mailed after you registered. If you don’t have your card (and you do not need it to vote), you can call your county Board of Elections for help.

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. Some Early Voting centers are not precinct polling places and they will not be open on Election Day.

If you are unable to vote in your own precinct, you can go to any polling place in your own county on Election Day and vote with a Provisional Ballot, but your vote will count for only the items that would appear on the ballot in your precinct.  This is called “out-of-precinct” voting on Election Day. You might use out-of-precinct voting because you don’t have time to get to your right polling place, but doing this may mean you don’t get to vote in some races. For example, your vote in a statewide or county-wide race would count, but there may be a district race that you are not entitled to vote in.

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.

The location and hours of the Early Voting sites will be posted here when they are announced. You can also contact your county Board of Elections for Early Voting sites and times where you live, because those those will vary from county to county. Many counties have sites open on evenings and Saturdays, or even a Sunday. At least one site in your county will be open on the Saturday before Election Day (3 days before Election Day), which is when Early Voting ends.

You can also register and vote at any Early Voting site in your county during the Early Voting period (but not on Election Day). See Same Day Registration & Voting for details.

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’s a myth that they are not counted the same.

What is Same Day Registration & Voting?

North Carolina allows people to register and vote on the same day at Early Voting sites during the Early Voting period (19 to 3 days before Election Day). You can not use Same Day Registration on Election Day.

To use Same Day Registration & Voting:

Here are the choices of acceptable forms of identification; show one of them to the election official. The document must have your name and current address:

  • NC driver’s license.
  • Utility bill from an electric, water, gas, phone or cable company.
  • Bank statement or bank-card statement.
  • Paycheck or stub.
  • Student ID and a document from the school with the student’s address.
  • Any local, state, or federal government document showing your residential address, such as a car registration, fishing license, military ID, Social Security letter, tax bill, etc.

All registrations go through a verification process. If your ID or address turns out to be false, your ballot is pulled and will not count. Using a fake ID or providing false information on your registration form is a felony.

For South Carolina Voter Registration, Election Day, and Absentee Voting Details, please click here!

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