This story originally published online at Carolina Public Press.
The midterm elections are coming, and there are a few ways to vote in North Carolina from early voting to casting your ballot on Election Day.
But if those don’t work for you, voting by mail is an option.
Any registered voter in North Carolina, for any reason, can request an absentee ballot to complete and mail to that voter’s local board of elections by Election Day.
Here are the details for the mail-in voting process in North Carolina.
How do I request an absentee ballot?
Before you can request a mail-in ballot, you have to register to vote.
A detailed, step-by-step walk-through for voting registration from Carolina Public Press can be found here.
The deadline for registration in North Carolina is October 14. If you’re not registered by then, your only option is same-day registration during the early voting period from October 20 to November 5.
Once you’re registered, you can request an absentee ballot either online or on paper, available in English and Spanish.
When requesting an absentee ballot, you must provide your date of birth and either your driver’s license number, your official NC Department of Motor Vehicles identification card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number to verify your identity.
The request must be signed by the voter, the voter’s near relative or a legal guardian.
Paper requests can be mailed or submitted in person at your county’s board of elections.
Requests must be made by November 1, a week before Election Day on November 8.
If you make a mistake on your absentee ballot, you can contact your local board of elections to request a new one.
You can track your mail-in ballot online through BallotTrax.
How do I fill out my mail-in ballot?
Once you fill out your vote on the mail-in ballot, you must either have two people or one notary public witness you marking your ballot. The witnesses do not need to see how you vote.
Once filled out, seal your ballot, and nothing else, inside the return envelope provided.
Then sign your name on the back of the envelope. Your witnesses will then sign and print their name, along with their addresses.
Anyone 18 years or older can be a witness unless that person is a candidate. Exceptions include if the candidate is a near relative or guardian or if the voter is a patient with a disability at a hospital, nursing home or some other medical facility requesting help from the candidate due to the disability.
If you received assistance due to a disability, the assistant must also sign and print their name along with their address.
Who can help if I need assistance?
If you need assistance with your ballot, typically only a near relative or a verified legal guardian can assist you.
If a voter is unable to read or write, and a relative or guardian can’t assist, another person can help the voter with the ballot. That assistant, however, must fill out the assistance section on the absentee ballot request form.
If you have a disability, however, anyone that you choose can assist you in filling out the request form.
Patients in a hospital, nursing home or some other medical facility can request a multipartisan assistance team, or MAT, from the county’s board of elections to assist them in the mail-in voting process.
If the patient does not have a disability, it is illegal “for any owner, manager, director or employee of the facility other than the voter’s near relative, verifiable legal guardian or member of a MAT to request an absentee ballot on behalf of a voter,” according to NC State Board of Elections.
If a relative or guardian isn’t available or a MAT is unable to assist within a week of a request, anyone not affiliated with the facility or a political party can assist the patient through the voting process.
When should I mail by absentee ballot?
An absentee ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, which is on Nov. 8 this year, and received no later than 5 p.m. November 14.
The N.C. State Board of Elections recommends that voters mail their ballots well before Election Day.
You can also return your absentee ballot in person to your county’s board of elections office or to an early voting site during the early voting period.
You can also take it to your board of elections office on Election Day, but you must do so by 5 p.m.
You cannot submit your absentee ballot at a voting site on Election Day.
Only you, a near relative or a legal guardian can mail or submit your ballot in person.
If you have a disability, however, anyone of your choosing can deliver the absentee ballot as long as they sign the voter assistant certification on the back of the sealed envelope.
How do I know my ballot will count?
Every ballot that is properly filled out, returned and postmarked by Election Day on November 8 will be counted.
If an absentee ballot is rejected for some reason, your local board of elections will contact you.
Your ballot can also be tracked online at BallotTrax.
In all North Carolina counties, results from all ballots, those cast by mail and in person, are tabulated and reported on Election Day.
Is mail-in voting secure?
Following the 2020 general election, during which there was a spike in mail-in voting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation spread about mail-in voting, particularly from former President Donald Trump, who lost the 2020 election to current President Joe Biden.
But there are many safeguards in place to ensure the security of mail-in voting in North Carolina, according to NCSBE.
Voters must be registered to request a mail-in ballot. They must provide their driver’s license number and the last four digits of their Social Security number when requesting.
Ballots must be marked in the presence of two witnesses or one notary public.
The voter or a relative or legal guardian are the only ones who can submit the mail-in ballot. The only exception is if the voter has a disability.
Once a ballot is accepted, the voter is marked in the system and will not be able to vote in person if an attempt to do so is made.
NCSBE also has an investigations division that investigates “credible allegations of elections fraud and refers cases to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence,” according to NCSBE.
NCSBE also audits election results after Election Day several times to ensure there are no inconsistencies.
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