Any North Carolina registered voter who is qualified to vote in an election can request and receive a by-mail absentee ballot for any election, whether it is a statewide primary, general election, or special election on constitutional amendments, referenda 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.
How to Request an Absentee Ballot
To receive a mail-in absentee ballot for an election, a voter or the voter’s near relative* or legal guardian must use the State Absentee Ballot Request form to request the ballot. Request forms are available at the State Board of Elections’ office, here on the State Board of Elections website, and at county boards of elections’ offices. The form can be reproduced.
*A “near relative” means spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild.
A signed and completed State Absentee Ballot Request Form must be received by the county board of elections no later than 5:00 p.m. on the last Tuesday prior to the date of the election for which the ballot is being requested.
A signed and completed request form may be mailed, faxed, e-mailed or delivered in person to the county board of elections office.
Note: A request form must be received for each election that a voter desires to vote a by-mail absentee ballot.
Completing the State Absentee Ballot Request Form
The State Absentee Ballot Request Form may only be signed by the voter or a near relative or legal guardian of the voter. When completing the form, the voter or the requestor must sign and provide the voter’s name, residential address, date of birth, and an identification number for the voter (i.e., NC DMV driver license number, NC DMV identification card number, or the last four digits of the voter’s social security number.) If an identification number is not provided on the form, then the requestor must submit one of the documents listed below along with the completed request form:
- A copy of a current and valid photo identification.
- A copy of one of the following documents that shows the name and address of the voter: a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document.
If a person other than the voter (a near relative or legal guardian) makes the request, then the requestor must also provide his or her name and residential address on the request form. If requesting a ballot for a partisan primary, and the voter is registered Unaffiliated, the voter or requestor should indicate the ballot preference for the voter. Finally, the voter or requestor must provide the address where the absentee balloting materials are to be mailed, if different than the voter’s residential address.
Note: If a registered North Carolina voter (including eligible dependents) is absent due to military service or is currently living overseas, then only the actual voter should complete the State Absentee Ballot Request Form.
Receiving a Ballot
If a valid request is received, the county board of elections office will mail the voter absentee balloting materials to the address provided on the request form when absentee ballots are available. Absentee ballots are available:
- 50 days prior to the date of a statewide primary election, county bond election or any other election, except those listed below;
- 60 days prior to the date of a statewide general election;
- 30 days prior to municipal elections.
The absentee balloting materials will consist of:
- a blank official absentee ballot;
- absentee voting instructions; and
- the Absentee Application and Certificate found on the back of the return ballot-container envelope.
Voting an Absentee Ballot
Returning the Voted Ballot
Once the Absentee Application and Certificate is fully executed with all relevant signatures, the voted ballot (contained inside of the container-return envelope) must be returned to the county board of elections no later than 5:00 p.m. on the date of the election. The envelope may be mailed or delivered in person to the board of elections’ office. Only the voter or the voter's near relative (spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, stepchild or qualified legal guardian) may deliver an absentee ballot in person.
An absentee ballot may also be delivered to an election official at a one-stop voting site during any time that site is open for voting. Ballots received after 5:00 p.m. on election day will be timely ONLY if they are received by mail and bear a postmark that is dated on or before the date of the election and are received no later than 5:00 p.m. on the third day following the election.
Assistance for voters living in facilities
Some voters find it necessary to vote by mail-in absentee ballot because they are elderly, limited in their mobility, or have a disability. This group of voters includes persons living at facilities such as nursing homes. Oftentimes, these voters require assistance in completing the forms or marking the ballot. The first preference, according to the law, is for the voter to receive assistance from a near relative or guardian. But some voters, particularly voters who live in facilities, may not have a near relative or guardian available to provide that assistance. It is important to know that employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or rest homes are prohibited by law from providing assistance with absentee voting. So, voters who live in facilities such as nursing homes or rest homes face special challenges in casting a mail-in absentee ballot. But here’s the good news: In every county, an impartial team called a “Multipartisan Assistance Team” is available to visit facilities such as nursing homes in order to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting. Click here for more information about Multipartisan Assistance Teams.