Absentee Voting in North Carolina
- Any NC registered voter who is qualified to vote in an election may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot for any election in which absentee voting is allowed.
- No special circumstance or reason is needed to receive and vote a mail-in absentee ballot.
- For non-military/overseas voters, an absentee ballot must be requested for each election in which a voter desires to vote absentee by-mail.
- Military or overseas voters have special rights under the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA). See www.fvap.gov and the Military and Overseas Voters page for more information on military and overseas citizens absentee voting.
Requesting an Absentee Ballot
Who may Request an Absentee Ballot?
- To receive a mail-in absentee ballot for an election, a voter or the voter’s near relative (spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild) or legal guardian must use the State Absentee Ballot Request Form to request the ballot.
Assistance Requesting an Absentee Ballot
- Voters who are blind or disabled, or who cannot read or write may receive assistance in completing the request form.
- If the assistance is provided by someone other than a near relative or legal guardian, that person’s name and address must be listed on the State Absentee Ballot Request Form.
Returning the Absentee Ballot Request Form
- Completed request forms may only be delivered to the county board of elections by one of the following:
- the voter
- the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian
- a member of a multipartisan assistance team (MAT) Page
- U. Postal Service or designated delivery service authorized pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7502(f).
- Forms returned by any other person will not be processed.
- Forms cannot be faxed or emailed.
- A signed and completed State Absentee Ballot Request Form must be received by the county board of elections office no later than 5:00 PM on the Tuesday prior to the date of the election for which the ballot is being requested.
- Requests that are received after the absentee request deadline will not be deemed timely, regardless of any postmark date.
2020 Deadlines for Requesting an Absentee Ballot
- March Primary Election: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 by 5 p.m.
- April Second Primary Election (Non-Federal): Tuesday, April 14, 2020 by 5 p.m.
- May Second Primary Election (Federal): Tuesday, May 5, 2020 by 5 p.m.
- November General Election: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 by 5 p.m.
Invalid Absentee Ballot Requests
- A request for absentee ballots is not valid if any of the following apply:
- The completed written request is not on the State Absentee Ballot Request Form.
- The completed written request is completed, partially or in whole, or signed by anyone other than the voter, the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, or a MAT member.
- The written request does not contain all of the required information.
- The completed written request is returned to the county board by someone who is not authorized to return the request.
Copying & Distributing Absentee Ballot Request Forms
- It is permissible to make copies of the Absentee Ballot Request Form for distribution.
- It is not permissible for candidates, campaigns, individuals or groups to create their own absentee ballot request form.
Completing the State Absentee Ballot Request Form
- When completing the State Absentee Ballot Request Form the following information is required:
- The name and address of the residence of the voter
- The name and address of the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian if that individual is making the request
- The address of the voter to which the application and absentee ballots are to be mailed if different from the residence address of the voter
- One of the following types of identification numbers for the voter:
- NC driver’s license
- NC special identification card for nonoperators
- last four digits of social security number
- The voter’s date of birth.
- The signature of the voter or of the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, if that individual is making the request
- A clear indicator of the date the election generating the request is to be held
- If a voter who is seeking a ballot for a partisan primary is registered as unaffiliated, the political party in whose primary the voter wishes to participate must be identified. This information enables the board of elections to determine which type of ballot to send to the voter.
Military & Overseas Voters
- Registered NC voters (including his or her eligible dependents) absent due to military service or currently overseas may also complete the State Absentee Ballot Request Form to receive special absentee voting protections.
- Additional information for military and overseas voters is available on the State Board of Elections website or the website of the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Voting an Absentee Ballot
- In the presence of two witnesses (or one witness if the witness is a Notary Public), the voter should mark the ballot, or if the voter is unable to mark the ballot, shall cause it to be marked according to the voter’s instructions.
- A witness should not observe so closely that they are able to see what votes the voter marked. What is required is that the witness sees the that the voter is voting the ballot
- The following individuals are prohibited from serving as a witness on an absentee ballot:
- A person who is under 18
- An individual who is a candidate for nomination or election to such office, unless the voter is the candidate’s near relative
- Additionally, if the voter is a patient or resident of a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home, the following people are also prohibited from serving as a witness on the absentee ballot:
- An owner, manager, director, employee of the hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home in which the voter is a patient or resident
- An individual who holds any elective office under the United States, this State, or any political subdivision of this State
- An individual who holds any office in a State, congressional district, county, or precinct political party or organization, or who is a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party; provided that a delegate to a convention shall not be considered a party office.
Certification of Witnesses and Assistants
- The voter’s two witnesses must, after observing that the voter marking the ballot, complete and sign the envelope in the space designated as Witnesses’ Certification.
- If a voter used the services of a Notary Public as a sole witness, the notary will sign the Notary-Witness Certification.
- A notary is not permitted to charge a fee for witnessing an absentee ballot. G.S. § 10B-30.
- Any person who assisted the voter must sign and date the certificate in the proper place on the envelope.
After Marking the Absentee Ballot
- Once the ballot is marked, the voter or a person assisting the voter must:
- seal the ballot in the container-return envelope; and,
- complete the Absentee Application and Certificate on the ballot container-return envelope.
Returning the Voted Ballot
- For civilian absentee voters, once the Absentee Application and Certificate is fully executed with all relevant signatures, the voted ballot (placed inside the container-return envelope) must be returned to the county board of elections no later than 5:00 PM on Election Day.
- Absentee ballots received after 5:00 PM on Election Day will be timely only if they are received by mail no later than 5:00 PM on the third day following the date of the election, and bear a postmark that is dated on or before Election Day.
- The envelope may be mailed or delivered in person to either the county board of elections office or to an open one-stop absentee voting site during the early voting period.
- Only the voter or the voter’s near relative may take possession of the absentee ballot for purposes of returning the ballot to the board of elections.
Some citizens, such as people serving in the military who are away from their permanent home on Election Day, their families, or US citizens who are living abroad, have special voting rights and ways to register to vote. These people have the choice of either requesting a mail-in absentee ballot the same way as other registered voters, or they can apply to register and/or vote through special programs for military and overseas voters as described below.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is a federal law that requires states to allow certain voters who are absent from their county of residence to have special rights that provide an expedited means for them to register and vote by mail-in absentee ballot. In order to qualify under the provisions of UOCAVA in this state, a voter must be a legal resident of NC. Citizens covered by UOCAVA include:
- A member of the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States who is on active duty.
- A member of the Merchant Marine, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, or the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.
- A member of the National Guard or state militia unit who is on activated status.
- A spouse or dependent of a uniformed services member as listed above.
- U.S. citizens residing outside the United States.
Special Voting Options for Military & Overseas Voters
The two special ways to register and vote for military and overseas voters are the Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB). The advantage of the FPCA is that the voter receives a full local ballot that includes all ballot choices, including local contest and ballot items. Meanwhile, the FWAB is a simpler option if the voter's main objective is to vote in prominent federal contests, such as the race for US President. However, a voter may vote for all contests (federal, state and local) for which he or she is eligible, but the voter must obtain information for local contests and ballot items in order to write in a choice for those items.
A military-overseas voter need only apply for an absentee ballot by one method; either the FPAC or the FWAB, but not both. Generally speaking, the FWAB serves as a backup to the FPCA. For most voters the FPCA is the best option.
Federal Voting Assistance Project (FVAP) links:
- FVAP.gov homepage
- Election Materials (Including FPCA/FWAB printable forms)
- Election Official Information (Guides for Processing Voting Materials / Sending Ballots / Election Official Online Training)
- Voting Assistance Guide
Where To Send the Request
- Mail: PO Box 56, Greenville NC 27835
- Email: ABSENTEE@ncsbe.gov;
- Fax: 252-830-1157
The request must be physically signed prior to submitting it to the board of elections. The deadline for individuals eligible under UOCAVA to register to vote and/or request an absentee ballot is 5:00 p.m. on the day prior to Election Day.
Only the voter may sign his or her FPCA or FWAB application. Family members may not sign these forms on the voter's behalf.
Requesting & Receiving a Ballot
When requesting a ballot, UOCAVA voters may elect to receive their balloting materials by mail, fax or email. Be sure to designate your transmittal preference on your FPCA application, and provide the appropriate contact information required to transmit the materials.
When official ballots are available: Ballot materials will be sent to you as soon as ballots are available for a given election. Absentee ballots are available 30 days prior to municipal elections for those municipalities that permit absentee voting, 50 days prior to statewide primaries, and 60 days prior to general elections. For any other type of election, ballots will be available 50 days prior to the election. After submitting a FPCA, military-overseas voters will receive a ballot for any election for which they are eligible during the year that the request is received.
Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
The military-overseas voter may also elect to vote a FWAB in lieu of a regular ballot. In NC, military-overseas voters may use a FWAB application to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and vote for all federal, state and local contest items for which the voter is eligible. The FWAB links above go to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, where voters will be led through a series of automated questions to set up the FWAB application.
The voter can vote for any ballot items that would be on the regular ballot; however, the voter must obtain the choices for those ballot items. The voter can either obtain this information by contacting the board of elections, or by looking up his or her sample ballot on the State Board of Election main page. The FWAB is an official military-overseas ballot, so if you submit a FWAB, your county board of elections will not send you a regular ballot.
Returning the Ballot
The military-overseas voter may return his or her voted ballot, including a FWAB, via mail, fax or email. The deadline to return military-overseas ballots is by the close of polls on Election Day (7:30 p.m. EST). If the ballot is received later than that hour, it will not be timely, unless the voter transmitted the ballot by 12:01 a.m. on the day of the election (voter time) and the county board receives the ballot by the last business day before the county canvass. The county canvass is normally conducted 10 days after the General Election and 7 days after other elections. When returning the ballot by mail, no postmark is required.
Before returning the ballot, the military-overseas voter must sign the Affirmation Of Military-Overseas Voter. The affirmation will be included in the instruction materials that are included with the blank ballot. If the balloting materials are mailed, then the affirmation is also on the back of the container-return envelope. Detailed instructions on returning the voted ballot are included with the absentee balloting materials sent to the voter.