By Josh Stein
Elections are already underway in North Carolina. Starting last month with absentee voting, continuing this month with in-person early voting, and ending on Nov. 3, North Carolinians across the state are casting their ballots and participating in our democracy.
As Attorney General, ensuring the integrity of elections in North Carolina is a top priority. I will do everything in my power to protect our elections so that you can vote easily, safely and securely, even in the midst of a public health pandemic.
If you’re an eligible voter, please vote. And please know that your vote will be counted and the results will reflect the will of the majority of voters.
Here are the voting options available to you.
First, you must register to vote. You can complete and submit a voter registration form by mail to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. You can also register to vote online through the NCDMV if you have a valid NC driver license or NCDMV-issued identification card. More information is available at https://www.ncsbe.gov/registering. You must register by Oct. 9, but if you miss that deadline, you can register and vote at the same time at one of the early voting locations.
There are three ways you can cast your ballot – by mail, in-person during early voting or in person on Election Day (Nov. 3).
Any eligible voter can vote by mail – you don’t need a special excuse to do so. And if you choose to stay home and vote by mail, you are making it safer for others to vote in person during early voting or on Election Day. Voting by mail is safe and secure. I can vouch for it – I cast my ballot by mail in September.
You can request a mail-in ballot at https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home. Do it right away so you have plenty of time to receive your ballot. Remember that you must have an 18-year-old witness present when you mark your ballot, and both of you must sign the envelope. Read the instructions carefully. While the law says that you can postmark your ballot by Election Day, do not wait. I’m pleased to have won an order in federal court requiring the U.S. Postal Service to reverse the changes that slowed down mail delivery, but don’t leave your vote to the speed of mail delivery. Mail back your ballot at least two to three weeks before Nov. 3 so it will be received in plenty of time. You can ensure your ballot was received by signing up for tracking alerts at https://northcaro lina.ballottrax.net/voter/.
If you’d rather vote in person during the early voting period, then you can do so at any early voting site in your county between Oct. 15 and 31. Early voting sites will have COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place to keep voters safe. All counties will have 17 days, including two weekends, of early voting. Find your county’s early voting locations and times at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite. And if you are old school, you can always vote in person on Election Day. Find your precinct at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup.
There are a few things to remember as you vote.
First, and most important, do not vote more than once – no matter what anyone may tell you. Voting or attempting to vote twice is a violation of both state and federal law.
Second, do not take a photo of your marked ballot. You can take a picture of the envelope or your blank ballot, but taking a picture of a marked ballot is against state law.
Finally, if you’re able, please consider being a democracy hero for our elections. Many people who usually work as poll workers are older and at higher risk for COVID-19, so they’re staying home to stay safe this year. We need paid election officials to work at polling places and voting sites and provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting to voters who are hospitalized or live in nursing homes. You can learn more at www.ncsbe.gov.
North Carolina’s election system is strong. I hope you take confidence in the strength of our system and the professionalism of our election officials. However you choose to cast your ballot in the upcoming elections – by mail, during the early voting period or on Election Day – please know that your vote will count, your voice will be heard and the candidate who garners the most votes will be the winner.
Elections reflect who we are, and what kind of state, nation and world we want for ourselves and our children. Please vote.
Josh Stein serves as attorney general for North Carolina.