Key dates to remember for North Carolina’s March primary election

A voter fills out a ballot on November 8, 2022 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

January 9, 2024

The state’s 2024 primary election is on March 5, but there are several deadlines before then you’ll need to be aware of to make sure your vote is counted.

The high-stakes 2024 elections are no longer on the distant horizon. The primary election in North Carolina, when voters will select which candidates will represent their chosen parties in November, is just 57 days away.

At the presidential level, 2024 will most likely again offer voters the choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump and their vastly different views of what the country, and reality, should look like. But there are several huge North Carolina elections as well, including for governor, attorney general, and legislative races.

These elections could have huge impacts on abortion rights in the state, whether North Carolina continues to address climate change, whether public schools are properly funded and, really, too many others to mention in a skimmable article.

There are also new election rules in effect this election, including Voter ID requirements and a new deadline for returning absentee ballots – by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

So as you prepare to learn more about the candidates and their positions, here are some important dates to remember ahead of the primary election on March 5.

Jan. 4-Feb. 27: The window to request an absentee ballot

Registered voters wishing to vote by mail in the primary can now request an absentee ballot online through the North Carolina State Board of Elections’s “absentee ballot portal.” The portal, the NCBOE says, “is the simplest, most efficient, and most accessible way” to ask for your ballot. Find it here.

You may also ask for a ballot through the mail or by dropping off a request form at your county board of elections. See here for a list of the county boards’ addresses, and print out your request form here.

If your registration is up to date, the NCBOE will mail the ballots to you.

A couple of other things to remember about voting by mail. Voters now have to include a photocopy of an approved Voter ID when they send in their completed ballot. There’s a pocket for the ID photocopy on the ballot paperwork. If you’re unable to include a photocopy of your ID, you can fill out a Voter ID Exception form and send it back with your ballot. The ballot will be accepted if elections officials approve the exception. (Click here for a list of approved exceptions.)

See here for a list of acceptable IDs and for a Voter ID Exception form.

Jan. 19: Elections officials start mailing out absentee ballots.

You don’t have to have your request in by this date, but this is the first day officials will start sending out mail ballots to voters. They will process the request forms through the entire absentee ballot window. To check on the status of your request, click here.

Feb. 9: Deadline to register to vote

There are several ways to register to vote in North Carolina, including online through the Department of Motor Vehicles. But this is the last day for most methods, aside from same-day registration during the early voting period (see below.)

Click here for how to register and to learn what documentation you’ll need.

Feb. 15: In-person early voting begins

This is a super popular and convenient way to vote. You can beat the crowds and choose when to vote. You can also register and vote at the same time. After Feb. 9th, early voting is the ONLY remaining way to register.

You can find your early voting site and other information here.

The final sprint toward the primaries

  • Feb. 27: Last day to request an absentee ballot.
  • March 2: In-person early voting ends at 3 p.m.
  • March: 5: Election Day for the North Carolina primaries.

The most important thing, aside from voting itself of course, is to give yourself enough time. The new deadlines and ID requirements may cause unnecessary barriers and potential last-minute hiccups, but elections officials say there is help available if you don’t yet have an ID or are not sure what forms count and which do not.

The state board of elections provides a free Voter ID to registered voters who ask for them.

Above all, don’t let the new changes stop you from voting, officials say.

“Voters who do not have an ID when it comes time to vote should not let this deter them,” Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director of the NCBOE, said last year.

“They can still vote a provisional ballot and fill out an ID Exception Form. It’s a simple form where the voter will explain why they were unable to show an ID.”


  • 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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