Pandemic or Not, It’s Almost Time to Vote in NC. Here’s What Not To Do.

Here's what not to do as an incredibly crucial Election Day approaches in NC. (Image via Shutterstock)

By Sarah Ovaska

September 2, 2020

A handy-dandy guide for what to do, and what not to do, as an incredibly crucial Election Day draws near.   

The word is out that it’s time to start thinking about how to vote this Election Day on Nov. 3.

But North Carolina election laws have some quirks, and it’s also good to know what NOT to do. Here’s some tips on what to be mindful of this fall election season.

  • Don’t take selfies with your ballot. We know you’re excited about voting. It’s the key piece of living in a democracy after all!

But in North Carolina, it is illegal to take a photo with a filled-in ballot.

And why does NC have this law on the books? Officials are not trying to quash your likes. Instead the law was intended to discourage vote-buying schemes in which someone might pay someone else to vote a certain way then demand a photo as proof. 

Acceptable poses do include selfies with the envelope of your mail-in ballot or with a special-edition “I voted” sticker.  

  • Don’t use an old address. Your elections board cares where you live. Your address  determines what elections you are eligible to vote in. So, if you moved in the last year or so, make sure to update your address with the county board of elections. You can check to see where you are registered through the State Board of Elections’ voter information portal. (And be sure to check that your last name is current if you recently changed it.)

Then you can fill out this form and then mail it or drop off at your county board of election. (Look up your county board of election information here.)

But don’t worry if you show up at your old precinct on Election Day, you can still vote! You can either go to your new precinct, or cast a “provisional” ballot, meaning it will be included in the official election tallies if found valid, according to Democracy NC.

  • Don’t hand in your neighbor’s ballots. You may want to help people ensure their voices are heard at the polls this year, but there’s a right way and wrong way to do it.

The right way would be offering neighbors rides to hand in their own absentee ballots at the local county elections board, or taking them to an early voting site from Oct. 15 to Oct. 31. You cannot hand in absentee ballots at voting precincts on Nov. 3.

But a clear “do not do” is gathering the filled-out absentee ballots of others and handing those in. North Carolina law requires that only the voter themselves, or a near relative, hand in a ballot. A near relative is defined as a spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, or legal guardian, according to the NC Board of Elections. 

This kind of “ballot harvesting” catapulted our own Bladen County onto the national radar in 2018 and 2019.  State elections officials called for a do-over of a Congressional election after receiving information about a Republican operative collecting and tampering with voters’ absentee ballots.

  • Don’t forget to register to vote. If you are a new voter (congrats!) there’s a bunch of ways you can register to vote. You can do so through the NC State Board of Elections website, or the NC Division of Motor Vehicles. Many groups also hold voter registration drives, though that work may be hindered this year because of the pandemic.

Registrations for new voters must be completed at least 25 days before the election to be processed – so that means an Oct. 9 deadline.

You can also register at an early voting site. Check out your local county board of elections here to find out where and when early voting is happening in your area.

  • Don’t forget to vote. The pandemic is making things more than a bit difficult to get things done in 2020. But there are plenty of ways to make sure your vote gets counted in 2020.

First, make sure you request your absentee ballots before Oct. 27. It must be received by your county elections board by Election Day.  You can track your ballot through the state board of elections to ensure your ballot was received and counted.

You can vote during the early voting window at pre-designated sites. The dates and hours for early voting vary by county, so check the details with your county board of elections.

Finally, if it’s Nov. 3 and you haven’t cast a ballot, look up your voting site on the NC State Board of Elections website and head on down.  

The most important thing, of course, is to vote.  


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