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AARP AARP States North Carolina Voters

How to Register, Vote and Track Your Ballot in North Carolina

En español | The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the state’s voter ID law after several legal challenges. Starting in 2023, voters will be asked to show photo ID when voting.

Though there are some local elections in 2023, the next statewide elections are in 2024. The 2024 elections will include races for seats in the U.S. House and state legislature as well as for governor.

Essential info:

  • Upcoming elections: Visit the state board of elections website for information about statewide elections when it becomes available.
  • Absentee-by-mail voting: This option is available to all registered voters. 
  • Early in-person voting: North Carolinians can cast ballots at any early voting site in their county during the early voting period.
  • Voting at the polls: You’ll be asked to show a photo ID when casting your ballot, starting with the 2023 local elections. If you're 65 or older you can use an expired ID as long as it was unexpired on your 65th birthday. If you don’t have a photo ID, you’ll still be allowed to vote, but you will need to fill out additional paperwork.

Have there been any recent changes to voting in North Carolina?

The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld the state’s voter ID law after several legal challenges. Voters will now be asked to show an acceptable photo ID, such as a driver's license, when casting their ballots.

Redistricting in 2022 changed certain boundaries of some state legislative and U.S. congressional districts and may affect which candidates appear on your ballot. 

Voters walk to a polling place to cast their ballots in Charlotte.
GRANT BALDWIN/AFP via Getty Images

How do I register to vote?

  • Online: If you have a driver’s license or an ID issued by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, you can register to vote and update your registration address or party affiliation through the DMV’s online voter registration service.   

The last day to register online, by mail or at your county board of elections office or the DMV is 25 days before an election. If you miss the deadline, same-day voting and registration is available at early voting sites during in-person early voting – but not on Election Day.

Check your registration status by using the voter search tool

Does my party affiliation matter when I vote in the primaries?

Yes. In a partisan primary, voters affiliated with a political party can only vote in that party’s primary. The Democratic, Libertarian and Republican parties allow unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in their primaries, but the Green Party does not.

How can I get a mail-in or absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?

Registered voters can request absentee ballots through a state board of elections online portal or by downloading an absentee ballot request form online. You also can call your county board of elections office to request a form, pick one up at any county board of elections office or the state board of elections office, or have someone pick up a form for you. A close relative, such as a spouse, sibling or parent, or your legal guardian can also complete and submit the form on your behalf.

Include your North Carolina driver’s license number or state ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number on your application.

Once you receive your absentee ballot, you need two witnesses or one notary public to be present when you fill it out. Their job is not to see how you vote but to confirm that it is you marking the ballot. Find detailed instructions for voting by mail on the North Carolina Board of Elections website.

How do I submit an absentee ballot?

There are several ways you can submit a completed absentee ballot

  • By mail: Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received no later than three days after an election. Mail your ballot early to make sure it arrives on time. Include a photocopy of an acceptable photo ID or fill out an ID Exception Form if you don’t have one.
  • In person: Return your completed ballot to your county board of elections office by 5 p.m. on Election Day. Or bring it to a one-stop early voting site in your county. Completed absentee ballots cannot be submitted at a polling place on Election Day. 

Can I track my absentee ballot?

Yes, register with BallotTrax, to check your ballot’s status.

Can I vote in person before Election Day?

Yes, at early voting sites. Unlike Election Day, when you must go to your assigned precinct to vote, during early voting you can cast your ballot at any early voting site in your county. Locations and hours can be found on the board of elections website.

What do I need to know about voting at the polls on Election Day?

On Election Day, you must vote at your designated precinct. Curbside voting will be available at polling locations for older voters and for voters with physical or mental disabilities. 

Find your polling place by logging in to the voter search tool or by using the polling place search tool. Check with your county board of elections office to confirm hours. If you are in line before the polls close, you’ll be allowed to vote.

Do I need identification to vote?

Yes. Starting in 2023, North Carolinians will be asked to show an acceptable photo ID — such as a driver’s license or state ID card — when voting. You’ll still be allowed to vote if you don’t have the required ID. But you’ll need to fill out a form explaining your reason.

If you're 65 or older, you can use an expired ID as long as it was unexpired on your 65th birthday.

If you forgot your ID, you can vote a provisional ballot. For your vote to be counted, you must bring the required identification to your county board of elections office before the results are certified. (For 2023 municipal elections, that’s the Monday after Election Day).

Voters without an ID can get a free ID card from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles or from their county board of elections office. For more information about the voter ID law, including a list of acceptable IDs, visit the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.

Editor’s note: This guide was updated on Aug. 23, 2023, with new information about North Carolina's voter ID law. The guide was first published on July 15, 2020.

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