By Nelda Holder –
North Carolina’s voting rights law is currently being tested in the federal court system, but with early voting for the March 15 primary election beginning on March 3, the following rules apply to primary voters.
Voter registration requirements
If you are a citizen of the United States (18 years of age or older by election day) and a legal county resident for at least 30 days prior to the election, you may register to vote at Buncombe County Election Services, 77 McDowell Street, Asheville, or at various other governmental agencies such as Work First, Food Stamps, Department of Health, Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Employment Security Commission. All Buncombe County libraries also provide registration forms. You must not be currently registered nor planning to vote in any other county or state.
If you have ever been convicted of a felony, your citizenship rights are temporarily suspended. After completing all the terms of your sentence (including parole, probation, and post-release supervision), your right to vote is restored automatically – but you must go in and register to vote again (or for the first time) in the county where you reside. You will not be automatically registered to vote until you do.
Although the regular registration deadline for the primary is 25 days prior to the election (February 19), registration will also be available during one-stop early voting, which begins Thursday, March 3 and ends Saturday, March 12. For additional information or to check the status of your registration, call Election Services at 250-4200.
Photo ID and alternatives
Changes in state law require a photo ID for voters at the polls beginning in 2016. There are six acceptable forms of photo ID:
- NC Drivers License/Permit or State Identification Card
- Current U.S. Passport, or U.S. passport card (Department of State-issued card for entering Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda)
- Veterans ID Card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- U.S. Military ID Card (unexpired if expiration date is noted on card)
- Tribal Enrollment Card issued by federally recognized Indian tribe
- Drivers License or Non-Operator License (unexpired) issued by another state – valid only if the voter registers in NC within 90 days of the election
“Reasonable impediment” to obtaining a photo ID
Voters who are unable to obtain one of the acceptable photo IDs due to reasonable impediment such as lack of proper documents, transportation or work schedule problems, illness, or disability, may still cast a provisional ballot at the polls. The provisional vote will be counted when the information on their declaration is verified. These voters must:
– Sign a declaration describing their impediment
– Provide date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number, or present their current voter registration card or a copy of an acceptable document (such as government check, bank statement, utility bill, that includes your correct, current home address)
Absentee ballots are available 50 days before the primary, up until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, one week before the election date. You may request a ballot to be mailed to you (or to a friend or relative who could bring the ballot to you). However, only you may vote the ballot. Full instructions will be on the absentee ballot, but it must be witnessed by an individual at least 18 years old. Absentee ballots must be returned to the Board of Elections no later than 5 p.m. on March 15 or, if delivered by mail, must be postmarked on or before March 15 and received no later than 5 p.m. on March 18.
Nursing home (and other facilities) voting
Absentee ballots may be requested by voters living at facilities such as nursing homes. Any person needing assistance with their ballot may receive assistance from a near relative or guardian, or may take advantage of the county’s Multipartisan Assistance Team which visits facilities to offer such help. (Note that employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or rest homes are prohibited by law from assisting with absentee ballots.)
You may vote in person at Asheville’s central/downtown early voting location in the Buncombe County Administrative Building, 200 College Street, beginning Thursday, March 3. Early voting will take place daily (except Sunday) March 3 to March 11 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, March 12, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There are 10 remote sites for early voting. You can vote at these remote sites from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except Sunday) from Thursday, March 3, until Friday, March 11, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 12.
- NORTH: North Asheville Library, Weaverville Town Hall:
- SOUTH: New Hope Presbyterian Church, South Buncombe Library; EAST: Asheville Mall, Black Mountain Library;
- WEST: Asheville Outlets, West Asheville Library;
- NORTHWEST: Leicester Library;
- SOUTHEAST: Fairview Library.
For a list of addresses, call the Board of Elections at 250-4200 or go online to www.buncombecounty.org/common/election/early-voting-flyer.pdf.
What’s on the ballot?
The primary ballots offer a chance to vote in a number of partisan statewide and county races, as well as a referendum for the issuance of a $2-billion general obligation bond for capital improvements for the state’s university and community college systems; water and sewer systems; the NC National Guard; state attractions and parks; and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Department of Public Safety.
Contests on the Democratic ballot include Presidential Preference, U.S. Senate, NC Governor, NC Lieutenant Governor, and the following additional NC offices: Attorney General, Commissioner of Labor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Treasurer. There are also primary challengers for seats on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners (not all ballots).
Candidates on the Republican ballot include the Presidential Preference, U.S. Senate, NC Governor, Attorney General, NC Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction, NC State Senate (some ballots), NC House of Representatives (some ballots), Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair, and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners (some ballots).
Sample ballots are available for your particular district at www.buncombecounty.org/Governing/Depts/Election/sampleballots.aspx.
If you encounter problems voting
There are several sources of help should you have a voting problem. First, you may call the Buncombe County Board of Elections at (828) 250-4200, or the NC Board of Elections at (919) 733-7173 or (866) 522-4723. Nonprofit organizations offering assistance include Democracy North Carolina, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (Election Protection Hotline) or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA; and United Way is offering assistance through its 2-1-1 helpline (also multi-lingual).