The first election I voted in was 2016.
I was 19, a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, and swung by Chapel of the Cross on Franklin Street between classes. I’d been on the fence about whether to register in my home county or in Orange County, so I put off doing it until the first week of November without realizing that I couldn’t just click a button on a website and presto.
Even so, the process was relatively painless: A nice elderly lady helped me fill out the registration form, and I just kinda just guessed on some of the down-ballot races (again, I was 19). I got my sticker, and I left.
This year, voting was complicated by a pandemic that spread across the country and to every single county in North Carolina. With this in mind, the State Board of Elections implemented a lot of “new” ideas like registering and requesting an absentee ballot online. They even took immediate action to deal with the 1,500 absentee ballots that were rejected for not including a witness signature, and now those ballots can be cured with an affidavit you can get from your county’s Board of Elections.
Today is National Voter Registration Day, and it’s the perfect time to add yourself to the 7 million North Carolinians who are ready to vote in the upcoming election — and for the first time, you can do it from the comfort of your couch.
If you have a North Carolina driver’s license or ID card, you can register to vote through the DMV. You can also use this to update a registration.
If you’re without a license or an ID, you can still update your registration online through email. Download a voter registration form, fill it out, find your county board of election’s contact information through the state website, and send it via fax or email. If you’re changing your name, address, or party affiliation, you don’t need a handwritten signature; if you’re a new voter, you’ll still need to mail the form in if you don’t have a state ID.
Residents without a permanent address can still register—they just have to mark where they sleep or live on the registration form map.
Voter registration ends October 9, but same-day registration will be available to early voters—just make sure you have your license or ID card, a bill, or your student ID. Early voting starts on October 15 and ends on Halloween (as if this election wasn’t spooky enough). The Board of Elections has an early voting stop lookup on their website, too.
Almost 950,000 absentee ballots have been requested, and over 100,000 have been returned already. Ninth Street Journal recently answered some common questions that folks had about mail-in voting, just one type of absentee vote. You can request an absentee ballot online, as well as track it online to make sure it gets to your county board of elections smoothly. Make sure you request your ballot by October 27, but your votes will be counted up to 5 p.m. on November 12 as long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day.
If you’re a young, healthy person, it’s also worth taking a look at working the polls this year and protecting our older neighbors. Wake County workers even got a $3 pay bump recently, taking the paycheck to $11/hour.
As for who to vote for, we’ll be releasing our traditional voting guide on October 14. If you can’t wait until then, check out who we endorsed in the primaries to get a better sense of your ballot, and don’t forget about the down-the-ballot races.
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