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Voting by Mail in North Carolina: A Guide

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Answers to common questions about absentee voting

North Carolina union members and voters across the state are turning to safe and secure absentee ballots for the November election in increasing numbers this year because of the pandemic. Over 950,000 voters in our state have requested absentee ballots, more than 12 times the numbers in 2016, and over 150,000 ballots have been cast by mail already this year

Any registered North Carolina voter may vote an absentee ballot by mail. Election officials started mailing absentee ballots on September 4th. If you have already requested a ballot and have not received it within two weeks, contact your county Board of Elections. Beginning five weeks before Election Day, the county board of elections holds weekly absentee board meetings where the approved ballots are inserted into a voting machine. However, results are not tabulated or reported until Election Day.

To assist union members and voters asking questions about their mail-in ballot, the NC AFL-CIO has compiled common questions and answers about this process. If you have any additional questions not covered in this guide, do not hesitate to contact your county Board of Elections or visit the state Board of Elections website.

To track your ballot through the election process, visit:

A more comprehensive list of FAQs is available on the NC State Board of Elections website.

Requesting your ballot

How do I request an absentee ballot?

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 27th. Registered voters may request a ballot through the online Absentee Ballot Request Portal, or download and fill out the North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Form. The form is also available at your county board of elections office.

After completing the request form, you may return it to your county board of elections by fax, email, mail, or in person. The request form comes with detailed instructions and is available in Spanish.

Marking your ballot and witness requirements

How many witnesses do I need for my absentee ballot?

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. The witness should not observe so closely that they can see how the voter votes. Instructions will come with your absentee ballot.

Who can witness my ballot?

Anyone except people under these restrictions:

  • 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.

If I make a mistake on my ballot, can 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.

Returning your ballot

Where can I drop off my ballot if I don’t want to mail it?

  • At your county’s Board of Elections office at any time before Election Day. Find your county elections office here:
  • At an early voting location during the early voting period from October 15–31. Find early voting site hours and locations here:

Ballots may not be dropped off at polling places on Election Day.

Who can drop off my ballot?

Your spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in- law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, or legal guardian. County boards of elections keep track of who drops off each absentee ballot.

When’s the final date I can return my ballot?

The container-return envelope with the voted ballot enclosed 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.

What if I request an absentee ballot, then change my mind about using it and go vote in person?

Requesting an absentee ballot will not record you as having voted. As long as you do not vote your absentee ballot, you may vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day.

The information used to create this guide was taken from the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.