Any registered N.C. voter qualified to vote may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot, no reason needed. The State Board of Elections website, NCSBE.gov, has a lot of information about N.C. voting and now offers an online ballot-request form. You may also download a form there 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 one be mailed to you. After completing the request form, you may return it to your county board of elections by fax, email, mail or in person.
Want to vote absentee?
Can someone request an absentee ballot for me, or can I request one for someone else?
Yes. A near relative or legal guardian may request a ballot for another person. A near relative is: spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent or stepchild. A near relative may also return a completed ballot for the voter. Some groups are sending out ballot request forms. That is legal, as long as it is a copy of the official request form and is blank. If any questions, contact your county board of elections or get your own form.
What if a voter in a hospital, nursing home or other facility needs assistance voting by mail?
Workers in care facilities are by law not allowed to assist voters in filling out their ballot or witnessing it. Any registered voter may request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT). A MAT is a group appointed by a county board of elections to assist voters in care facilities with absentee voting by mail. To schedule a MAT visit, contact your county board of elections. Special safety protocols should be taken this year because of COVID-19.
Do I need a witness when I fill out my absentee ballot?
Yes. For the 2020 general election, only one witness is required. The voter is required to mark the ballot in the presence of the witness, but the witness shouldn’t be able to see how the voter votes. Instructions will come with your absentee ballot. The witness must be an adult and can’t be a candidate (unless the voter is a near relative). Precautions can be taken because of COVID-19, such as the witness observing through a window or at a distance of greater than 6 feet, and both people wearing masks.
Can I get a new ballot if I make a mistake?
Yes, if you have not returned the ballot, you can get a new ballot from your county board of elections. The first ballot should not be returned and will be logged as “spoiled.” If you have already returned your ballot, you cannot change or cancel your vote.
How can I return my ballot?
You may do so in one of these ways:
1. By mail.
2. By commercial courier service (DHL, FedEx or UPS).
3. In person at your county board of elections office.
4. In person at an early voting site in your county. Tim Tsujii, the director of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, said, “We’ll have signage at the early voting sites directing absentee voters to go directly to the help desk and drop off their absentee ballots.” You may not return your ballot at a precinct on Election Day.
How much postage do I need to mail my ballot?
One 55-cent stamp (or a Forever stamp).
May two people return their ballots in the same envelope?
No. The returned ballot envelope is specific to each voter and must contain only that voter’s ballot.
What safeguards are there on absentee ballots?
There are multiple security measures on absentee ballots. In North Carolina, absentee ballots are sent only to registered voters who request them using an official request form. The request must be signed and include the required identifying information.
Voters must vote their ballot in the presence of a witness, and that witness must sign the return envelope to certify it. Upon return of the ballot, the county board of elections reviews the envelope to ensure the legal requirements have been complied with.
Once the ballot is accepted, that voter is marked in the system as having voted in that election and cannot vote again. If someone has voted an absentee ballot and then shows up to vote in person, the check-in system will alert the poll worker that the person has already voted.
How can I check if my ballot has been received?
You may check the status of your ballot online at vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup. Also, according to Tsujii, “intelligent mail bar codes (IMB) will be included on the (ballot) return envelope, and absentee voters may track the delivery of their ballot to the Board of Elections office, which is similar to using a tracking number to track a package through a delivery service company.”
Note: If you’re planning to submit an absentee ballot by mail, officials strongly encourage you to mail it with more than enough time to make it to your local board of elections, at least a week (more if possible). The postal service expects to handle an unusually large number of ballots, and recent cost-cutting measures have caused some delivery delays.
For early, in person voting, can I register on the same day?
Yes. Residents may register at early voting sites during the early voting period. The voter can then immediately vote at that same site. To register, people must show one of the following:
N.C. drivers license;
other photo identification issued by a government agency as long as it bears the voter’s current name and address;
a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document showing the voter’s current name and address; or
a current college/university photo identification card paired with proof of campus habitation.
Where can I vote early?
Forsyth County early voting sites
Forsyth County Government Center, 201 N. Chestnut St., Winston-Salem
Brown & Douglas Rec Center, 4725 Indiana Ave., Winston-Salem
Clemmons Library, 3554 Clemmons Road, Clemmons
Harper Hill Commons Shopping Center (beside Harris Teeter), 150 Grant Hill Lane, Winston-Salem
Kernersville Library, 248 Harmon Lane, Kernersville
Lewisville Library, 6490 Shallowford Road, Lewisville
Mazie Woodruff Center, 4905 Lansing Drive, Winston-Salem
Miller Park Rec Center, 400 Leisure Lane, Winston-Salem
Old Town Rec Center, 4550 Shattalon Drive, Winston-Salem
Rural Hall Library, 7125 Broad St., Rural Hall
Sedge Garden Rec Center, 401 Robbins Road, Winston-Salem
Sprague Street Rec Center, 1350 E. Sprague St., Winston-Salem
Southside Library, 3185 Buchanan St., Winston-Salem
Walkertown Library, 2969 Main St., Walkertown
Winston First Assembly of God, 3730 University Parkway, Winston-Salem
Winston Lake YMCA, 901 Waterworks Road, Winston-Salem
WSSU campus, Anderson Center
Hours for early voting in Forsyth County
Weekdays: 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 (Saturdays): 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 18 and Oct 25 (Sundays): 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Oct. 31 (Saturday): 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
On Election Day, will I have to show an ID to vote?
No. N.C. voters are not required to show photo ID. The state’s Voter ID law was blocked by a federal district court on Dec. 31, 2019.
What are the voting hours on Election Day?
Polls will be open across the state from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voters who are in line at 7:30 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot.
Are all local precincts the same this year as the last election?
According to Tsujii, “The Board of Elections office is still working to secure all 101 (local) precincts for Election Day. If there are any changes, the office must notify all affected voters by 45 days before Election Day. We will mail new voter registration cards, as well as a notification letter, to affected voters.”
COVID-19 precautions for in-person voting
Enforcing social distancing and encouraging the use of masks
Providing hand sanitizer and masks for voters and workers
Providing gloves and face shields for election workers
Erecting barriers between workers and voters at check-in tables
Providing single-use pens or Q-tips depending on equipment type
Frequently cleaning surfaces and equipment at voting sites
Recruiting poll workers who are less vulnerable to the virus
Sources: Forsyth County Board of Elections; N.C. State Board of Elections; USPS.com. Journal reporter Tim Clodfelter contributed to the research for this graphic.