Any registered voter in North Carolina who is qualified to vote in an election can either request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot or vote during One-Stop for any election, whether it is a statewide primary, general election, or special election on constitutional amendments, referendum or bond proposals, or any municipal election in which absentee voting is allowed. No special circumstance or excuse is needed to receive and vote a mail-in absentee ballot.
The absentee public register for an election can be easily accessed. Interested parties can select the election date and view public data regarding absentee voting for that election. For each election, the absentee register is confidential and not a public record until the opening of the polls on Election Day.
Until further order of the court, voters are not required to show photo ID. The law was enjoined by a federal district court on December 31, 2019. This page will be updated if new information becomes available.
A person must be a registered voter in their North Carolina County of residence in order to request an absentee ballot. If not registered to vote in the proper county, a person must submit a voter registration application (PDF) along with the State Absentee Ballot Request Form (PDF). The deadline to register to vote is 25 days prior to the date of the election. Registered voters may request a ballot through the new online Absentee Request Portal on the NC State Board of Elections website or fill out the NC State Absentee Request Form. For more information about how to vote absentee-by-mail, visit the NC State Board of Elections.
Completing the Form
The voter's full name, residential address, date of birth and an identification number must be provided on this form. This information will be used to confirm your voter registration. In addition, this form must be signed by the voter or the voter's near relative or qualified legal guardian. The absentee ballot request form may also serve as a voter change form; however, changes in voter registration may only be made by the voter.
Who may make a request for an absentee ballot?
Either the voter or the voter's near relative or qualified legal guardian may request an absentee ballot. A "near relative" is defined as the voter's spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild.
If a registered voter is a patient in any hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home, it is unlawful for any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person, other than the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to request an absentee ballot on behalf of the voter, unless the absentee voter is disabled. A disabled absentee voter may receive assistance from any person they choose.
Proof of Identification
If the voter's NC driver license number, NC DMV-issued identification card number, or last four digits of social security number is not provided, a copy of one of the following must be provided along with the request form:
- A current and valid photo identification
- A document that shows the name and residential address of the voter: a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document
- 50 days prior to the date of a statewide primary election
- 60 days prior to the date of a statewide general election
- 30 days prior to the date of municipal elections
Submitting the Form
- Civilian voters may return completed absentee request forms by mail or deliver in person to the county board of elections office.
- Completed absentee request forms may only be delivered in person to the county board of elections by one of the following:
- The voter
- The voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian
- A member of a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT) Page
- U.S. Postal Service or designated delivery service authorized pursuant to 26 USC. § 7502(f).
- Forms returned by any other person will not be processed.
- Voters may submit their absentee request online using the new NC Absentee Ballot Request Portal on the NC State Board of Elections website.
- A signed and completed State Absentee Ballot Request Form must be received by the county board of elections office no later than 5 pm on the Tuesday prior to the date of the election for which the ballot is being requested.
- Requests that are received after the absentee request deadline will not be deemed timely, regardless of any postmark date.
- Requests forms that are delivered by the deadline to the State Board will be considered timely. In the interest of ensuring that county boards of elections are able to promptly process voters' absentee requests, we strongly recommend that forms be submitted to the appropriate county board of elections.
Completing the Ballot
The voter is required to mark the ballot in the presence of two witnesses who are at least 18 years of age, or you may use one witness, if the person is a notary public. Your witnesses do not need to see how you vote; instead, they are witnessing that you are voting on your own accord. The successful submission of a ballot requires the completion of all required sections on the absentee container-return envelope. The voter must ensure that they have signed the Voter's Certification section and the voter's two witnesses, or a notary public, have completed all required elements in the Witness section on the container-return envelope. The following persons may not be your absentee witness:
- For all voters:
- A person who is a candidate for nomination or election to any federal, state, or local elective office in the primary or election in which you are voting absentee (unless the candidate is your near relative or legal guardian.) (G.S. § 163A-1317(c))
- For voters who are patients or residents of a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home and are not disabled:
- An owner, manager, director, or employee, of a hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in which you are a patient or resident. (G.S. § 163A-1298(a)(4))
- A person who holds any federal, state, or local elective office. (G.S. § 163A-1298(a)(4))
- A person who holds office in a state, congressional district, county or precinct political party or organization, or who is a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party. (G.S. § 163A-1298(a)(4)).
- For any voter who is disabled, including those who are patients or residents of a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home:
- A disabled absentee voter may receive assistance from any person they choose, including a MAT team, staff of the hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home where they are a patient or resident, an elected official, political party office holder, or candidate.
If the voter, due to a disability, required assistance in marking the ballot or needed assistance in mailing the ballot, the person providing this assistance must complete the Voter Assistant Certification also found on the container- return envelope. This portion of the container-return envelope differs from the "Witness" portion of the envelope, and is only required in situations where the voter received assistance completing or mailing the ballot.
Returning the Ballot
A late civilian ballot is one that received after these absentee-ballot receipt deadlines:
- 5 pm on Election Day
- Postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail on the Friday after Election Day (three days after the election) unless otherwise noted by the NCSBE.
- During the 2023 Municipal Elections, any ballot that is postmarked on or before Election Day (November 7, 2023) must be received in-office by Monday, November 13, 2023 as the three-day deadline noted above results in the deadline falling on a federal holiday. As a result, the deadline has been moved to the next business day (NCGS 103-5).
Some citizens, such as people serving in the military who are away from their permanent home on Election Day, their families, or U.S. citizens who are living abroad, have special voting rights and ways to register to vote. These people have the choice of either requesting a mail-in absentee ballot the same way as other registered voters, or they can apply to register and/or vote through special programs for military and overseas voters as described below.
The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) is a federal law that requires states to allow certain voters who are absent from their county of residence to have special rights that provide an expedited means for them to register and vote by mail-in absentee ballot. In order to qualify under the provisions of UOCAVA in this state, a voter must be a legal resident of North Carolina. Citizens covered by UOCAVA include:
- A member of the active or reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States who is on active duty
- A member of the Merchant Marine, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, or the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States
- A member of the National Guard or state militia unit who is on activated status
- A spouse or dependent of a uniformed services member
- U.S. citizens residing outside the United States
UOCAVA voters may use these forms to register and / or request an absentee ballot:
A military-overseas voter need only apply for an absentee ballot by one method; either the FPCA or the FWAB, but not both. Generally speaking, the FWAB serves as a backup to the FPCA. For most voters the FPCA is the best option. FWAB users will need to reference the UOCAVA Election Notice for a list of candidates running.
Previously registered UOCAVA voters may also use the State Absentee Ballot Request Form (PDF) to request an absentee ballot. Registered voters may request a ballot through the new online Absentee Request Portal on the NC State Board of Elections website.
- What is a MAT?
A Multipartisan Assistance Team, or "MAT", is a group appointed by the New Hanover County Board of Elections to provide assistance with absentee-by-mail voting to voters living at assisted-living facilities.
MAT visits help facilities ensure compliance with N C. General Statute §163-226.3(a)(4). According to this statute, the following individuals are legally prohibited from providing absentee assistance to voters who are NOT disabled: owners, managers, directors, and employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or rest homes ("facilities"). Violation of this law is a Class I felony [N.C.G.S. § 163-226.3].
Important Note Regarding the Assistance to Disabled Voters in North Carolina
In July 2022, a federal court issued an order that struck down state laws barring certain individuals from helping disabled voters request, complete, and submit absentee ballots.
As a result of that order, a disabled absentee voter may receive assistance from any person they choose. They may still request and use a MAT team, but they are not required to do so. They may receive assistance from the staff of the hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home where they are a patient or resident. They may also receive assistance from an elected official, political party officeholder, or candidate.
In recognition of the fact that some facility residents and patients may not have access to a near relative or legal guardian to provide them with assistance, MATs ensure that facility residents are provided lawful assistance in voting. The makeup of MAT teams includes, at minimum, two voters whose voter registration is affiliated with two different political parties (or, in the alternative, those who were unanimously appointed by a bipartisan County Board of Elections) who are trained to provide absentee voting assistance.
- What services do MATs offer?
MATs offer two major services:
- Requesting an absentee-by-mail ballot
- To receive an absentee ballot, a State Absentee Ballot Request Form (PDF) must be completed. MATs provide this form and may help fill it out if necessary. The MAT will deliver the completed form back to the Board of Elections office, and the ballot will be mailed to the voter in the following days.
- Casting an absentee-by-mail ballot
- Once a mail-in absentee ballot has been requested, the ballot will arrive in the mail. MATs can help with marking the ballot, completing the return envelope and serving as witnesses to the act of voting.
- Requesting an absentee-by-mail ballot
- Who can schedule a MAT visit?
If you are a voter living in a facility and would like to schedule a MAT visit, contact the activity coordinator of your facility. If you do not know who the activity coordinator is, or if there is no activity coordinator, talk to staff or management at your facility. These representatives can use the online form to schedule a MAT visit for any residents who are in need of these resources.
- How do I schedule a MAT Visit?
If you are a facility representative, such as an activity coordinator, who would like to schedule a MAT visit for your facility, please use the online form. Once the request has been submitted, a New Hanover County Board of Elections representative will be in touch with process information and scheduling.