The 2017 Women's March in Washington DC after Donald Trump's inauguration.  Progressives are hoping for the same passion and energy for voting in this year's midterms, which are crucial for democracy, reproductive rights, and so many issues. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) 2017 Protests
The 2017 Women's March in Washington DC after Donald Trump's inauguration. Progressives are hoping for the same passion and energy for voting in this year's midterms, which are crucial for democracy, reproductive rights, and so many issues. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

We break down this enormous Election Day, giving you a step-by-step guide to all the important deadlines ahead.

It’s Labor Day weekend, which means there are less than 70 days until Election Day. 

Time flies when so much is at stake.

While it may be a cliche to say this election is more important than ever, it is not an exaggeration. 

North Carolina voters will help decide which party controls the Senate, which means they’ll be determining whether the next Congress addresses climate change, protects election integrity or expands access to healthcare, to name only a few major issues.  

And voters here will also decide whether abortion remains legal in North Carolina. The Republican controlled legislature needs to win only a few more seats to be able to pass restrictive abortion measures that would survive a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. 

But before North Carolinians have a chance to set the course of the state and nation, they must make sure they’re registered. 

There are several important dates to remember before Election Day, Nov. 8. Here’s a look.

Sept. 9 – Absentee Ballots Become Available

During the pandemic-ravaged 2020 elections, more than a million people voted by mail in North Carolina, a state record. Election officials don’t expect that to change this year. 

The process is efficient, but is a little involved, so if you want to vote by mail make sure you read the state’s guidance carefully to ensure your ballot is accepted. 

If you are registered to vote in NC, you can request an absentee ballot online through the NC Absentee Ballot Portal here. (You should get immediate confirmation of the receipt once you complete and submit the form.) You can also download the ballot, in either English or Spanish, fill it out and return it by mail, see below. 

Oct. 14 – Last Day to Register

North Carolina makes it pretty easy to register to vote, but you can’t register on Election Day unless you were granted US citizenship after the voter registration deadline or likewise had your voting rights restored following a felony conviction. 

So it’s important to get your registration taken care of long before it’s voting time.

You can register:

  •  Online or in person through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If you miss the deadline, you can still register during the early voting period (see below) but you can do so only at a limited number of early-voting sites in your county. So, as with many of these deadlines, the earlier the better.

Oct. 20 – Early Voting Begins

Each election season in NC offers a two-week window of early voting, a chance to vote in person without dealing with the crowds of Election Day.

There are some other important differences.

  • There are limited voting locations during this period, but you can vote at any of them in your county, unlike on Election Day, when you can vote only at your assigned precinct.
  • You CAN register to vote at your early voting site.

You can find your sample ballots and early voting sites here.

The two-week window closes at 3 p.m., on Nov. 5.

Nov. 1 – Last Day to Request an Absentee Ballot

Once you have your ballot, you just have to return it. To do so by mail, send it to your county board of election. The ballot return envelope must include the proper postage, be postmarked by Nov. 8, Election Day, and be received by Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.

The NC Board of Elections “strongly recommend[s]” that you mail your ballot as early as possible to avoid post office delays. 

For further information on returning your ballot, visit the state elections board website site here.

Nov. 8 – Election Day

The big day. 

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m., but as long as you’re in line to vote by 7:30 p.m., you’ll be able to. 

Remember, you’ll be able to vote only at your assigned location on Election Day, so search here for your polling place and here to make sure you’re properly registered. 

Another important thing to remember, it is illegal to intimidate or threaten poll workers or voters waiting in line. So if anyone messes with you while you’re trying to vote, let the election officials on site know immediately.