Raleigh, N.C. — That plastic Santa and light-up reindeer in your yard might be sharing space with political yard signs this month.
Filing for 2016 political races opens Tuesday at noon, two months earlier than usual, due to changes in the election calendar.
Here are six essential things to know about the formal start to North Carolina's campaign season.
WHY SO EARLY: Lawmakers moved up the 2016 primaries to March 15 in order to better position North Carolina in the presidential primary calendar. In prior years, Democratic and Republican presidential primaries have been all but settled before North Carolinians got to vote. This year, the state will be a big prize in the midst of the primary cycle.
WHEN DOES FILING BEGIN AND END: Candidates can begin filing at noon on Tuesday. Filing ends at noon on Monday, Dec. 21.
WHAT ARE THE BIG RACES: Aside from president, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr faces re-election as does Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory is expected to face Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, in the general election, although Cooper must first get past a Democratic primary versus Durham lawyer Ken Spaulding. Burr will face the winner of a Democratic primary that includes former Wake County lawmaker Deborah Ross, Durham businessman Kevin Griffin and Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey.
This is the first time since 2008 North Carolina's ballot will have races for president, U.S. senator and governor at the same time.
WHAT ELSE IS ON THE BALLOT: Lots. Including the governor, North Carolina has 10 officials elected statewide, including the agriculture commissioner, attorney general and lieutenant governor. The state's 13 members of the U.S. House are also up for election, as are 120 members of the state House and 50 members of the state Senate. Voters will also choose members of the judiciary, including one seat on the state Supreme Court and races for the Court of Appeals.
Voters across the state will also get to decide whether the state should borrow $2 billion in bonds for university and community college buildings, upgrading park facilities and other purposes.
Locally, voters will choose members of their county board of commission and board of education.
WHO'S IN AND OUT: Already, 19 members of the General Assembly have either said they will not run again or have already resigned. The highest-profile name to bow out of a statewide race is Treasurer Janet Cowell, with most other members of the Council of State expected to run to keep their seats.
WHEN CAN I VOTE: Absentee voting by mail for the primary begins on Monday, Jan. 25. The in-person early voting period begins on Thursday, March 3, and ends on Saturday, March 12. Primary election day is Tuesday, March 15. Looking ahead, the General Election in on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Among the most important dates to remember is Feb. 19, the date by which voters need to register for the primary.