News: CJ Exclusives

Earlier Primary Means Earlier Voting Deadlines

Absentee ballots already available for March 15 contests

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

RALEIGH – Advancing the North Carolina primary date to March 15 has led to earlier deadlines for registering to vote, absentee voting, changing your party affiliation, and other election-related activities.

People wanting to vote absentee by mail now can apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline to deliver a civilian absentee ballot to a local board of elections is 5 p.m. March 15, said Jackie Hyland, spokeswoman for the State Board of Elections.

Hyland said that an absentee ballot mailed to the local board of elections must be postmarked on or before March 15 and will be accepted as long as it is received by the board by March 18.

Voters can find an absentee ballot application here.

Those serving in the military have a few extra days to mail absentee ballots. “For the military, it is 5 p.m. on March 21,” Hyland said. “For the military you have to qualify under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.”

Voter registration deadline for the primary is Friday, Feb. 19. That is also the date for a voter to change his or her party affiliation.

One stop early voting begins Thursday, March 3, and ends at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 12.

While the General Assembly passed a law eliminating one-stop registration and voting during early voting in 2013, the practice still is allowed because of an injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals. However, Hyland said if the litigation ends before early voting opens in March, then the status of one-stop registration may be settled.

People who are 17 years old, will turn 18 before the Nov. 8 general election, and are registered to vote are eligible to vote in the primary. However, they will not be allowed to vote on the $2 billion statewide bond referendum on the March 15 ballot. Nor will they be eligible to vote in any other bond, referendums, or final elections, such as school board, until they turn 18.

The law requiring voters to present a state-approved form of identification at the polls law takes effect this year and will be required for the March 15 primary. A North Carolina driver’s license, learner’s permit, or ID card issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles are acceptable forms of voter ID, provided they are valid and current or they expired less than four years ago.

Other acceptable forms of photo ID include an unexpired U.S. military ID card, an unexpired U.S. passport, a state or federally recognized tribal ID card, a veterans ID card, and an unexpired driver’s license or DMV ID card from another state (but only if the voter registered to vote within 90 days of the election).

Last year, the voter ID law was modified to include a “reasonable impediment” exemption for people who are unable to obtain an acceptable photo ID. Allowable reasons include lacking proper documents to obtain an ID, family obligations, transportation problems, work schedule, illness, or disability.

Those voters could cast provisional ballots if they signed a declaration describing their impediment and providing their date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. They may also provide other documents bearing their name and address, such as a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government-issued document.

Provisional ballots from these voters would be counted if the information is verified and all other eligibility requirements are met.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.