Election 2020: Voting in North Carolina

Election 2020: Voting in North Carolina
NCSBE (Source: NCSBE)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As North Carolina residents vote in an election season unlike any other, some are still trying to grip the changes in place this year.

Your Guide to Campaign 2020: A WBTV election special. Watch the first part below. Full special linked below first video.

Part 1: Your Guide to Campaign 2020

Mail-in voting is among the changes. North Carolina is allowing all voters to cast an absentee ballot by mail, without a special circumstance.

This year, N.C. voters have three options to vote: absentee by-mail, early in-person, or in person on Election Day.

The North Carolina Board of Elections issued a stern warning to the public about voting more than once. NCBOE executive director Karen Brinson Bell released a letter telling voters that it is illegal to vote twice in an election.

Bell says that if you vote more than once in an election, according to N.C.G.S. § 163-275(7), it is a Class I felony for a voter, “with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.”

Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.

The warning came as President Donald Trump suggested during his visit to Wilmington that people who vote by absentee ballot should “check their vote” by attempting to vote in person as well.

Residents in North Carolina needed to register by October 9 to vote in the November 3, 2020 general election. Residents also needed to meet several qualifications.

Click here for information about pre-registering to vote for those who are 16 and 17, registering to vote as a college student, or registering as a person in the N.C. criminal justice system.

Eligible residents who missed the deadline may register to vote during early voting with same-day registration. Same-day registrants must provide proof of where they live by showing any of the following documents with their current name and address:

  • North Carolina driver’s license
  • Other photo identification issued by a government agency. Any government-issued photo ID is acceptable, provided that the card includes the voter’s current name and address.
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document showing the voter’s name and address.
  • A current college/university photo identification card paired with proof of campus habitation.

Within two business days of the person’s registration, the county board of elections will verify the registrant’s driver’s license or Social Security number, update the voter registration database, search for possible duplicate registrations, and begin to verify the registrant’s address by mail. State officials say the registrant’s ballot will be counted unless the county board of elections determines that he or she is not qualified to vote that ballot.

A three-judge panel ruled that felons who have been released from prison but who remain on probation solely because they owe fines, fees, or other debts, may vote in North Carolina’s coming elections. The decision undoes, at least temporarily, part of a North Carolina election law.

HOW TO REQUEST AN ABSENTEE BALLOT

WBTV News Now: How to request an absentee ballot

HOW TO VOTE | ABSENTEE VOTING

There are several ways North Carolina residents can vote this year.

Early voting started October 15 and will end October 31. Those eligible may cast an absentee ballot in person during the early voting period. Click here for one-stop early voting sites in your county.

  • Vote by mail: Absentee ballots may be requested until October 27 at 5 p.m. Voters may request a North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Form to be completed through mail, email or fax, or request an absentee mail ballot online through the Absentee Ballot Request Portal. Complete your absentee ballot in the presence of one witness and insert the ballot into the return envelope, sign the outside of the ballot return envelope, and have your witness complete the witness certification. Then, return your ballot to your county board of elections (by mail, postmarked on or before Election Day, and received by 5 p.m. on November 6, by commercial courier service, dropped off in person at your county board of elections office by 5 p.m. on Election Day, or dropped off in person at any early voting site in your county during voting hours).

Gov. Roy Cooper reiterated the importance of filling out mail-in ballots correctly. “If the ballot is not filled out correctly and is not properly witnessed than the state board of elections is not going to have it submitted, no matter who it is," Cooper said.

A federal judge ordered North Carolina elections officials to update absentee voting rules to ensure that voters prove they have had someone witness their ballot.

Judge William Osteen issued a preliminary injunction on October 14 ordering state officials to rewrite a directive issued in late September that allowed voters to fix a lack of a witness signature by returning an affidavit.

  • Vote early in-person - In-person early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 15 and ends Saturday, Oct. 31. During early voting, voters may cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county, which is different from Election Day when registered voters must vote at their assigned precinct. Click here to find early voting sites in your county (Sites will be available as soon as they are finalized). Those who are not registered to vote in a county may register at early voting sites during the early voting period. After registering, residents can immediately vote at that same site as long as they provide proof of where they live and attests their eligibility. The voter may prove their residence by providing a North Carolina driver’s license, other photo identification issued by a government agency, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document showing the voter’s name and address, or a current college/university photo identification card paired with proof of campus habitation. Not sure if you are registered to vote? Use the Voter Search Tool.
  • Vote on Election Day in person - Polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Election Day. The NCBE says any voter in line at 7:30 p.m. will be able to vote. Registered voters may vote at their assigned polling place. (Find your Election Day polling place through the Voter Search Tool or search using your address with the Polling Place Search).

Those with a mental or physical disability may be eligible to vote curbside. Any voter who qualifies for assistance may ask for help at any one-stop early voting site or Election Day polling place. Federal and state laws require early voting locations and Election Day polling sites to be accessible to all voters. Click here for more on the voting process for those with a disability and for criteria the voters must meet.

Active duty military members, their dependents, and U.S. citizens living abroad may request a mail-in absentee ballot the same way other registered voters would. They may also apply to register and vote through special programs for military and overseas voters.

Good question: Can you fix mistakes on absentee ballots

North Carolina residents planning to vote early in person may use the early one-stop early voting search tool. Voters will enter their county and a list of sites will pop up.

Registered residents may vote on Election Day at their assigned polling place. Find your Election Day polling place through the Voter Search Tool or search using your address with the Polling Place Search.

UPDATING VOTER REGISTRATION

The North Carolina Voter Registration Application may be used to change voting information, including name, address, and party affiliation. The change notification must be signed and be sent to the appropriate county board of elections 25 days before the election, which has already passed.

Division of Motor Vehicles customers may update their voter registration residential or mailing address and party affiliation through the DMV’s Online Voter Registration Service.

Those who need to cancel their voter registration may do so through a form.

COVID-19 SAFETY MEASURES

NCSBE says polling places have COVID-19 safeguards in place to help protect voters and election workers against the spread of the virus:

  • Enforcing social distancing at polling places and early voting sites
  • Providing hand sanitizer and masks for voters and election workers who do not bring their own
  • Providing gloves and face shields for election workers
  • Erecting barriers between election workers and voters at check-in tables
  • Providing single-use pens in counties that use hand-marked paper ballots and Q-tips for voters who use ballot-marking devices
  • Frequently cleaning surfaces and equipment in polling places and early voting sites
  • Recruiting poll workers who are less vulnerable to the virus

“The elections board is working hard with local election boards to make sure that everything is sanitized," Cooper said, "That all the personal protective equipment is provided.” Cooper said the board is working to make sure people feel safe voting during the pandemic this year.

“We are certainly encouraging people to go vote in person and to go vote early,” Cooper said. “You also have the option to vote absentee."

VOLUNTEERING

North Carolina county boards of elections are searching for democracy heroes to work at polling places and voting sites for the November 2020 general election.

High school students can also work in the polls on election day. Student Election Assistants carry some of the same responsibilities as election officials, and are compensated in the same way, N.C. officials say.

A Multipartisan Assistance Team, or “MAT,” is a group appointed by a county board of elections to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting to voters in facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes. Click here to learn more.

TRACK YOUR BALLOT

Absentee by-mail voters in North Carolina can find the status of their ballot through BallotTrax, through the State Board’s Voter Search Tool, or by contacting their county board of elections.

WBTV NEWS NOW: How to track your absentee ballot with BallotTrax

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