Changes are in store for North Carolina’s primary election, which is May 17. The shifting of congressional and legislative districts is among the biggest changes after the second set of redistricting maps was finalized. Several lawsuits challenged the first set drawn by legislators in October.
“All the geocoding changes from redistricting should be in place now,” said Patrick Gannon, public information director for the N.C. State Board of Elections. Gannon said the elections board had to wait for final candidate lists before moving forward.
“Once you have all the candidate filing, you can start creating, drafting, proofing, coding, and printing ballots,” he said. “Our voting systems folks are working with the voting system vendors and the county boards’ staff.”
Voters can visit the voter’s search tool on the election board’s website to determine if they’re in a new district, whether that be for Congress or the N.C. General Assembly.
Some of the actions taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been reversed. In 2020, the legislature reduced the witness requirement for absentee ballots to one — instead of two and/or a notary public.
That’s no longer in effect, as a voter will once again need two witnesses to sign the envelope and/or a notary public if voting by absentee ballot.
The deadline for absentee ballots to be received for the general election is affected, too. If postmarked by Election Day, ballots — in the prior election — could be received nine days later. This year, if ballots are postmarked by Election Day, they will be accepted three days after the election, which would be Nov. 11, according to the previous rules.
For absentee voting, all registered voters are eligible to vote by mail; however, they must submit a valid request. The ballots aren’t sent automatically, Gannon said.
Voters can get an absentee ballot via an online portal, and they will be mailed starting March 28. Absentee-by-mail voters can track the status of their ballots with a service called BallotTrax, which the Board of Elections introduced in the 2020 general election.
In addition to absentee ballots, people can vote in person during the early voting period and on Election Day.
Gannon said all counties have adopted early voting, April 29 through May 14. During that time, eligible individuals can register and vote at the same time. Otherwise, April 22 is the last day to register to vote, and the last day to change party affiliations.
Although not required, county boards of elections will provide masks if someone wants one. People may also see single-use pens.
Gannon said second primaries are likely because of the number of candidates in some contests. If no candidate gets over 30% of the vote in a race, a possibility exists for a second primary between the leading candidate and the runner-up, who will have to request it. That would be July 26.
There won’t be a Libertarian primary this year.
“If you are a registered Libertarian, there is no primary for your party; however, if your jurisdiction has a nonpartisan ballot (ex. constitutional amendment, sales tax referendum), you can vote that ballot, but you can’t vote on any other ballot in the primary,” he said. “Unaffiliated voters can choose either the Republican Party ballot, Democratic Party ballot, or nonpartisan ballot, or if there was a Libertarian ballot.”
Gannon is confident the primary election will run smoothly. “We have every reason to believe that this will be a safe, accessible, and secure election,” he said.