Raleigh, N.C. — The first votes in North Carolina's March 15 primary will be cast later this month, just as a lawsuit hoping to derail some of the state's new voting rules heads back to federal court.
NC approves 27 candidates for presidential primary ballots Voters this year will encounter new photo identification rules for the first time, although advocacy groups point out that there are ways for those without a valid photo ID to cast a ballot.
"We don't want anyone to be confused," said Gary Sims, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.
While there are safeguards to ensure everyone can vote, people should make it easy on themselves and election workers, Sims said.
"Don't gamble on your vote. If you have the proper identification, then just bring it. If you don't have it, it's going to take you longer to vote," he said.
Voters who are not overseas will cast their ballots in one of three ways: by mail, early in-person or on primary day. Here's what you need to know in order to make your voice heard this spring.
Register to vote: Voters who are not already registered have until Feb. 19 to get their name on the voter rolls for the March 15 primary.
Current state law has eliminated same day registration during the early voting period, but according to the State Board of Elections the "'same-day registration' process is currently permitted due to a preliminary injunction granted under a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but this option remains the subject of ongoing litigation in federal court." In other words, the option remains available during early voting, for the time being, but could go away depending on when the court makes a final ruling**. Same day registration is not available on Election Day.
Voters to decide on $2B bond package Bond opposition getting organized Sims says that people who have moved or are in the process of moving would be better off updating their voter registration by Feb. 19.
"Do that little extra to make it as smooth as possible," Sims said.
While there are procedures in place to handle people who move close to an election, he said it is easier for voters and local boards alike to update registration in advance of the election.
Vote by mail: Local boards of elections will start sending out by-mail absentee ballots next Monday. Voters have until 5 p.m. March 8 to request an absentee ballot.
NCSBE: North Carolina Voter Guide When a voter casts his or her ballot by mail, he or she must either have two people sign as witnesses or have the form notarized. The voter can either mail the form back or hand-deliver it to the local board.
Voting rights advocates point out that this is a way to vote that does not require a photo identification, although the form will ask you for either the number from a state-issued ID or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
In-person early voting: The period for what was once called "one-stop" voting begins on March 3 statewide, although specific times, days and locations vary by county. The last day of early voting is March 12.
In virtually all counties, the local board of elections office is an early voting location. Some larger counties, such as Wake and Durham counties, have regional satellite locations for those who want to vote early.
As they will be on primary day, voters will be asked to show photo identification. According to the State Board of Elections, acceptable forms of ID include:
- A driver's license issued by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, including a learner's permit or a provisional license. IDs that are four years out of date may still be used.
- A current passport issued by the United States.
- A veteran's ID card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A veteran's card with an expiration date must be unexpired. Those without an expiration date are also acceptable.
- A United States military ID card issued by the Department of Defense.
- A tribal ID card for a federally recognized tribe or a tribal ID card for a state-recognized tribe approved by the State Board of Elections.
- A driver's license or identification card issued by another state or the District of Columbia. In order to use this card, the voter must have registered to vote 90 days or fewer prior to the election in question.
There are exceptions to the voter ID requirement, most prominently a feature that allows voters to declare they had a "reasonably impediment" to obtaining a photo ID.
Reasonable impediments include things such as not being able to get to the DMV to obtain an ID card or the inability to get off work during DMV hours. Those who vote citing a reasonable impediment will cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are counted during the canvass in the week following the election.
As noted above, same day registration is currently available during the One Stop period thanks to a federal court order. However, that status could change depending on how the court rules in pending voting cases.
Election Day: The primary is March 15. On election days, voters are asked to cast their ballots at a local precinct.
As of early January, there was conflicting information on the state board's website. However, the correct information reads:
"Voters who appear on Election Day in the correct county but in the improper precinct may cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted for all contests in which the voter was eligible to participate. This 'out-of-precinct voting' is currently permitted due to a preliminary injunction granted under a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but this option remains the subject of ongoing litigation in federal court. Please check back at this website for updates. Click here to locate your assigned precinct polling location.
As with the same-day registration rules, election officials say voters would be better off not needing take advantage of the lingering out-of-precinct voting rules because they could change once the federal courts make a ruling.
The voter ID rules for Election Day, and exceptions, are the same as for the early voting period.
Sims points out that this is the first election that North Carolina has required photo ID for those voting on Election Day or during the early period.
"Work with our precinct officials. They're community volunteers," he said, acknowledging the voter ID requirement is controversial for some. "They didn't make the law. They're just trying to make democracy happen."