Information from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Through Sunday, August 9, 2020, North Carolina voters had submitted 163,374 requests for absentee by-mail ballots for the 2020 general election, more than seven times as many as the 22,074 requests submitted at the same time in 2016.
The State Board of Elections and county boards of elections across North Carolina are getting many questions about the absentee voting process. Any registered voter in North Carolina may vote an absentee ballot by mail. Fill out an official State Absentee Ballot Request Form, available for download at NCSBE.gov, or pick one up at your county board of elections office. The request form comes with detailed instructions and is available in Spanish. You may also contact your county board of elections and request that one be mailed to you.
Who is eligible to vote with an absentee ballot in North Carolina?
Any North Carolina registered voter who is qualified to vote in an election may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot for any election in which absentee voting is allowed. All registered voters may request an absentee ballot for the November 2020 general election.
No special circumstance or reason is needed to receive and vote a mail-in absentee ballot.
Voters who want to vote by mail must request a ballot for each election.
Military or overseas voters have special rights under the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). See www.fvap.gov and the Military and Overseas Voters page for more information on military and overseas citizens absentee voting.
When may I request an absentee ballot?
Voters may request an absentee ballot at any time between now and October 27 at 5 p.m. Ballots will be sent to voters who request them beginning September 4.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The US Postmaster General has recently instituted numerous changes in mail delivery, including cutting staff hours, that are likely to delay service throughout the voting period. Anticipate a minimum of two to three weeks between the time you request your ballot, receive it, fill it out, and return it. Our recommendation is to have your absentee ballot ready to mail back no later than Oct. 15, 2020.]
May I request an absentee ballot if I do not have a permanent residence?
You are required to provide your NC residential address, which is the place to which, when you are absent, you intend to return. If you are homeless or live in a nontraditional dwelling, you should list the location or cross street under the “NC Residential Address” section where you typically stay or sleep and intend to return when you are absent. This place does not have to be an address where you receive mail. If you do not receive mail at your residential address, or if you want your ballot sent to another address, you should provide the mailing address where you receive mail that you want your ballot mailed to.
Do I need to include a copy of a photo ID with my absentee request form/ballot?
No. North Carolina voters are not required to provide or show ID until further order of the courts. (See “Injunction” story)
How will I receive my ballot?
Beginning Sept. 4, 2020, each county board of elections will mail absentee ballots to registered voters who have made a request. The board will mail the following three items to the mailing address you provide on the request form (these items cannot be picked up in person):
- An Absentee Ballot
- A return envelope with a certificate statement on it, and
- An instruction sheet
Marking Your Ballot and Witness Requirements.
For the 2020 general election, only one witness is required for an absentee ballot. The voter is required to mark the ballot in the presence of the witness. To protect the privacy of the voter’s choices, the witness should not be able to see how the voter votes. Instructions will come with your absentee ballot.
If I make a mistake on my ballot, may I request a new one?
Yes, if you have not returned the ballot, you may contact your county board of elections and request a new ballot. The first ballot should not be returned and will not count.
Who is not allowed to serve as a witness to an absentee ballot?
- A person younger than 18
- A candidate for election, unless the candidate is the voter’s near relative
If the voter is a patient or resident at a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or adult care home, the following individuals are also prohibited from assisting: an owner, manager, director, or employee of that facility; an individual who holds any elected federal, state or local office or precinct political party or organization office; or a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party.
When is the deadline to return my ballot for the November 3, 2020 election?
The voted ballot must be returned to the county board of elections no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will be counted only if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail no later than 5 p.m. November 6. Ballots without a postmark must be received by Election Day. You do NOT need to include a copy of a photo ID with your absentee ballot.
DO NOT return the voted ballot in any other envelope than the “Official Return Envelope” provided.
If your “Official Return Envelope” is torn, glued shut, or damaged in any other way, contact your local county Board of Election Office to get a replacement envelope. Make sure the replacement envelope is imprinted with the number that matches your ballot.
Your returned ballot envelope requires postage. Put enough postage on the “Official Return Envelope” to make sure your voted ballot get to its local Board of Elections destination. If you are able to go to the Post Office, ask the postal clerk to weigh your ballot and label it with a metered stamp. This will show the official date your ballot was mailed. Take a picture of this metered and stamped returned ballot with your cellphone camera for reference.
For further information
Within the state of North Carolina, you can contact the North Carolina State Board of Elections at (919) 814-0700 or (866) 522-4723.
Buncombe County Board of Elections at 77 McDowell Street, Asheville, NC 28801. Phone (828) 250-4200 or Fax (828) 250-6262. Hours of operation: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.