From requesting a ballot to submitting it, a step-by-step guide to absentee voting in NC
Looking to vote by mail in North Carolina? Here are the steps to make sure your vote counts.Posted — Updated
Register to vote
If you’re registered and want to vote by mail, fill out an absentee ballot request form. This is just what it sounds like. You’re requesting a ballot. This form is not the ballot itself.
Request a mail-in (absentee) ballot
Sometimes groups mail blank forms out en masse to voters. If you choose to fill that form out, you are simply requesting a ballot to vote by mail.
Fill out your ballot and have it witnessed
Only voters themselves, or a near relative, should request a ballot or handle the ballot itself. If anyone other than a near relative helps someone who's blind or disabled fill out the form, that person’s name and address must be listed on the request form.
Your ballot will come in the mail. You fill it out like a normal ballot, but you need to have witnesses: Either a notary public or two witnesses must be with you when you mark the ballot. (Because of the pandemic, during the 2020 elections only one witness was required.)
A lot of other states use signature verification. They match the signature on the ballot to the one on file with an individual's voter registration. But signatures can change over time, and "matching" can be subjective. So North Carolia requires the witnesses or notary to verify that it's really you casting your ballot.
Witnesses should verify that you marked the ballot yourself, but they should not see how you voted.
Return your mail-in (absentee) ballot by election day
Mailed ballots stored securely, not counted until election day
When a mail-in ballot arrives at the county board of elections, it's checked in by county workers. They first look at the outside envelope to make sure there are no problems with it.
Then each mailed-in ballot is stored in a high-security area. In the weeks before the election, the bipartisan county elections board inspects batches of unopened ballots and, if they're completed correctly, directs staff to open them and put the ballots into the counting machine. However, they don't calculate the results of mail-in votes until the polls open on election day, so they don't know who's ahead. The ballots are then returned to secure storage for nearly two years before they're destroyed.
You can change your mind and vote in person. But you can't vote twice.
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