By George Reed, Retired Executive Director of the NC Council of Churches
There has been a lot of confusion about voting this year. Voter suppression laws, designed to make it difficult for some people to vote, have been overturned by federal courts, which talked about the “surgical precision” with which the legislature and governor had tried to limit the electoral rights of racial minorities. But even with some of the laws ruled unconstitutional, the confusion created by the legislature and governor may confound people and discourage some from voting.
Don’t let that happen to you, your family members or your fellow church members.
Below are the important “hot tips” you need to know and can share with others. They are from our friends at Democracy NC, a nonpartisan organization committed to full participation of citizens in elections.
I have been a precinct worker in Wake County for several elections, and those charged with overseeing elections want everybody who is qualified to be able to vote. If you have a problem at your precinct, don’t give up. You should be able at least to vote a provisional ballot. If you have additional problems, see the hotline numbers at the end of this blog.
Here are the crucial dates – details and links below in Hot Tips:
October 14 – Regular registration ends
October 20 – November 5 – Early voting, which includes one-stop registration and voting.
November 1 – Last day to request an absentee ballot
November 8 – Election Day, polls open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM
November 8 – Last day to deliver absentee ballot to elections board or have it postmarked if being mailed
November 14 – Last day for mailed-in absentee ballots to be received by elections board
Hot tips for voting from Democracy NC
The rules are set for 2016. Follow these basics:
- Register by October 14. But if you forget, register at an Early Voting location.
- Vote early! If you wait until Election Day, go to your own precinct’s poll.
- No photo ID is needed to vote, but new voters should read #8 below.
- Register by October 14. Forms are at libraries or the website for the North Carolina State Board of Elections. If you register and skip an election, you’re still registered; but register again if you move. Check your status at the NC Voter website.
- Use Same-Day Registration if you miss the October 14 deadline. Go to an Early Voting site, fill out the form and show one of these with your name & address: a government document, pay stub, utility bill, bank statement, or student ID with a school document showing your address.
- You may register at a campus address if you view it as home OR at another address where you intend to return. A 17-year-old who will be 18 on November 8 can register now.
- Welcome Back. In NC, you can register like a new voter after serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole. No extra document is needed. A civil fine, restitution or misdemeanor doesn’t block your right to vote.
- ID RULES. Because of a court ruling, you do NOT need to show an ID to vote – except if you use same-day registration (see #5) or if you are a new voter in the county and your registration form was not fully verified. In that case, you will need to show one of the documents in #5 or any current photo ID.
- Vote Early to avoid possible last-minute problems. Early Voting is October 20 to November 5. See NC Voter or call your county elections board for Early Voting hours and places.
- Election Day. Polls open 6:30 am – 7:30 pm. Vote at your precinct’s poll, not an Early Voting site. For help, call 888-OUR-Vote. Voting lines are usually longest 7 to 9 am and 4 to 7:30 pm. Heavy voting is expected.
- Vote Absentee by Mail. Any voter may do this. Go here to request form and see the rules. Follow them carefully. The request must be received (not just mailed) by November 1. Your ballot must be delivered back to the elections board (or at least postmarked) by Election Day. Deadline dates for requesting and returning absentee ballots are slightly different for military and overseas voters. More information can be found here.
- Straight-Party Voting is not available. Mark your choice in each race. Flip the ballot over. Review your own ballot ahead of time at NC Voter.
- Helpful Aid. Take a list on paper or your cellphone to help you remember your choices. No photos are allowed inside, not even a selfie! If you mess up the ballot, ask for a new one.
- Assist Others. A near family member may help you vote. Voters with a disability or reading hardship may get help from anyone except their employer or union agent. Those with physical disabilities that make it difficult to enter a voting place may vote outside. Look for Curbside Voting.
- Back-Up. If you go to the wrong precinct on Election Day or have a problem at the poll, you have a right to vote with a provisional ballot and to learn if it is counted.
Questions? Problem voting? Call the Hotline: 888-OUR-VOTE or visit the NC Voter website.