Today’s the Deadline to Register to Vote in NC. Here’s How to Do It.

I Registered To Vote Today stickers in New Hampshire, U.S.. Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg

By Michael McElroy

October 9, 2020

Here’s a guide on how to easily register to vote in North Carolina so you can cast your vote during this year’s pivotal election.

Though you will still be able to register to vote at Early Election sites starting next week, today is the last day to register online or by mail. You must do so by 5 p.m. today. 

It’s the first major deadline of the season, and there’s no going back now.

The number of new voter registrations is soaring along with the unprecedented demand for mail in ballots, setting up what is expected to be record breaking participation when all the votes are counted. The increase in North Carolina, a crucial swing state both for the presidency and for control of the U.S. Senate, is driven by first-time voters and seasoned voters moving to the state from elsewhere, according to voting rights advocates and demographics groups like Carolina Demography. These metrics capture North Carolina’s rising significance in the Electoral College and reflect the state’s frequent appearance on the-best-places-to-live lists. 

Dr. Rebecca Tippett, the director of Carolina Demography based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote on the group’s website, that the North Carolina State Board of Elections has reported that there have been 1.8 million new voter registration forms filed since the 2016 election.  “These new voters make up 25% of the state’s 7.1 million registered voters,” she wrote.

READ MORE: I’m a First-Time Voter. Here’s Why More Youth Like Me Are Voting

There are signs that even voting blocs that in the past may have had lower turnout, like low-income voters and college students, are registering at higher numbers, according to voting rights groups such as You Can Vote and the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Voting rights advocates and political operatives say that this election will be the country’s most consequential in decades and the turnout could be only part of the unprecedented nature of the vote.

Because of the pandemic and the uncertainty about the post office’s ability to deliver mail-in ballots on time, state and county election officials have urged voters to make a plan. There are three ways to vote – in person on Election Day, by mail, and in-person during the early voting period, which will begin six days from now.

How To Register to Vote

But, each of those plans requires the same first step. You have to register. So if you want to vote but haven’t registered, all you need to do right now is open another tab in your browser. The good news is that even at the last minute, new voter registration is an easy process. Here is a guide.

  • Who can register: According to NC law, someone seeking to register to vote has to prove a few things. You have to be 18 or older on Election Day, be a US citizen and have lived in your voting precinct at least 30 days before Election Day. And those convicted of felonies can register or reregister to vote as long as they’re done with their sentences and aren’t on probation.

  • Register by mail: As long as the mail is postmarked by the 9th (that’s today) you’ll be fine. Print and fill out the application form here, and mail it to: NC State Board of Elections, P.O. Box 27255, Raleigh, NC 27611-7255. You can also bring the completed form to your county Board of Elections office, which you can find here. (See, we’ve got you covered.)

  • Register online: North Carolina now allows you to register online through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website. That’s new this year. Click here to start, then click on “Voter Registration Application.” Though you do not need a photo ID to vote, you will need identification and proof of residence to register online. You can use a North Carolina driver’s license, or you can use a DMV-issued ID card number, your social security number and your date of birth. “If you do not have a valid North Carolina Driver License or DMV-issued ID Card,” the DMV says, “you can download a voter registration application and submit it to the State Board of Elections.”

  • *Early Voting Sites: And here we explain the asterisk, an important exception. Though you will no longer be able to register online or by mail after tomorrow, you CAN still register at Early Voting sites starting on Oc. 15 and cast your ballot that very same day. (You will not be able to register to vote on Election Day, Nov. 3).The Early Voting window runs from next Thursday, Oct. 15, through Oct. 31. The locations are limited, however, so see a list of early voting sites here. Elections officials and voter rights advocates say there will be plenty of PPE and coronavirus protocols in place. According to You Can Vote, a North Carolina-focused voting rights group, voters who register and vote at the same time during Early Voting will need to bring identification. “If you use same-day registration,” the group writes on its website, “be sure to bring: a government photo ID or a document (or online bill) with your name and current address: bank statement, utility bill, pay stub or government document.”

Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections, spent much of Friday morning Tweeting some other useful tips.

There are still 25 days until Election Day on Nov. 3.

As the last few weeks have shown, that’s a lifetime. Anything can still happen before the final vote, but the biggest reasons to vote will be the same. The fires burning in the West, the people losing their jobs or struggling to replace the ones they lost, the families going hungry, the virus continuing its spread across the country, the threats of white supremacy and domestic terrorism, these are just some fo the daunting challenges that shape voters’ daily lives.

This is indeed a vital election, and to vote is to take a stand for the America you want to see.

But, you can’t do any of that until you register to vote.

It will take two minutes – less time than it took to read this article.

Note: This article has changed from the original to include additional information from Gerry Cohen.


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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