How To Vote In The 2020 General Election

Sep 15, 2020

Do you have questions about the 2020 General Election? This year, with the coronavirus pandemic, knowing how to vote is just as important as what is on the ballot. WFAE has answers to some of the biggest questions you might have about the Nov. 3 election. 

Where Do I Vote?

Where you vote depends on what precinct you live in – and there are around 200 precincts in Mecklenburg County.

To find your Mecklenburg County precinct and polling place, put your address here. It is a good idea to double-check this page as locations can change. 

For the other counties in North Carolina, search for you polling place here or find a convenient early voting site here

You must vote in your assigned precinct and each polling place will have a list of all registered voters in the area.

What Do I Need To Vote?

In North Carolina, you do not need your photo ID. In 2019, a federal court stopped the ID requirement for the state.

If you are voting in person, you can bring your cellphone into the booth with you, but there are rules.

You cannot take any photos inside the booth, including of ballots, other voters or even of yourself. Once you are outside the booth, you are free to take selfies.

You also cannot use your cellphone to text, call, email or communicate in any way with anybody while voting. If you need assistance voting, let somebody working at the polls know.

Cellphones are allowed to look up information on candidates and issues. You are also allowed to bring other voter information to the polls.

Unless you are dropping off an early ballot, you do not need a ballot or any other materials to vote.

How Will Voting Be Different This Year?

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are expected to vote by mail or early in person. As many as 30-40% of voters in North Carolina are estimated to vote absentee, and another 50% are expected to vote early in 2020.

Those who vote in person will be provided with single-use pens to sign in and cotton swabs to use touchscreen voting machines to reduce physical contact with equipment and the possible spread of the virus.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting has two methods voters can cast ballots other than the traditional method. These methods are absentee by mail and absentee one-stop. 

Absentee by Mail

Registered voters in Mecklenburg County can request an absentee ballot from the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. Voters have to ask for the form before Oct. 27 by completing the absentee ballot request form. An application and ballot will be mailed to the voter after the request form is received. Ballots began to be mailed Sept. 4. 

Here's how to send a request form:

  • Email the request form to absentee@mecklenburgcountync.gov
  • The application form can be faxed at 704-319-9722
  • The document can be mailed to PO Box 31788 Charlotte, NC 28231
  • The document can be dropped off at 741 Kenilworth Ave. Suite 202 Charlotte, NC 28204.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, in June, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a law that will allow voters to request absentee ballots online. Additionally, it changed the number of required witnesses from two to one. 

If you are in the military, the immediate family of an active-duty military member, or a U.S. citizen overseas, visit FVAP.gov to register and request your ballots.

How To Fill Out Your Absentee Ballot

If you've never voted absentee-by-mail before, it's a good idea to read directions carefully and check out the State Board of Elections guide to ensure that you fill out your ballot correctly and your vote is counted.

Most importantly, you must remember to sign your absentee ballot envelope. Sign the outside of the ballot return envelope and have your witness complete and sign the witness certification.

How To Return Your Absentee Ballot

You can return your absentee ballot in several ways:

  • By mail to your county board of elections. It must be postmarked on or before Election Day, Nov. 3, and received by 5 p.m. Nov. 6.
  • By commercial courier service (FedEx, UPS or DHL).
  • Dropped off in-person at your county board of elections by 5 p.m. Nov. 3. (Mecklenburg County's Board of Election is located at 741 Kenilworth Ave., Suite 202, Charlotte, NC 28204.)
  • Dropped off in person at any early-voting site during voting hours.

The U.S. Postal Service has suggested that voters returning ballots by mail send them no later than Oct. 30. Some election experts have recommended sending it back even earlier -- no later than Oct. 25.

You can track your absentee-by-mail ballot to ensure that it has been received at a new State Board of Elections website here.

Election officials have repeatedly reminded voters that voting twice is a felony, and voters who submit absentee-by-mail ballots should not show up to vote in person on Election Day.

Early Voting

Voters can choose to vote in person if they’re worried about post office delays or crowds on Election Day. Registered voters can use one-stop early voting, which begins Oct. 15 at 8 a.m. and ends Oct. 31 at 3 p.m. Specific dates, times and locations vary by site. Find an early voting site by using the drop-down menu to select your county here. A map should appear with several locations.

One-Stop Early Voting

At one-stop early voting sites during the two-week early voting period, eligible voters can register to vote and vote on the same day. One-stop early voting sites can be found here.

Same-day registrants must provide proof of where they live and their eligibility to vote. Proof of residence can be provided with any of the following documents showing your current name and address:

  • A North Carolina driver's license.
  • Other photo ID issued by a government agency, provided the card includes the current name and address.
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing the voter's name and address.
  • A current college/university photo ID card paired with proof of campus habitation.

Within two days of registration, the county board of elections will verify the registrant's driver's license or Social Security number, update the voter registration database, search for possible duplicate registrations and begin to verify the registrant's address by mail. 

What's Different About Early Voting Sites This Year?

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, larger sites will be used for early voting for allow for social distancing. This year, early voting sites in Mecklenburg County include Bank of America Stadium, Spectrum Center and Bojangles Coliseum. A full list, with times each site is open, can be found here.

How Do You Vote If You're Sick Or Disabled After The Request Deadline For An Absentee Ballot?

If a voter is sick or disabled, they can apply in person or have a close relative or verifiable legal guardian apply in person at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office. A ballot will then be delivered to the voter. 

This option is only available for sick or disabled voters after 8 a.m. on the Wednesday prior to each election (Oct. 28) but not later than 5 p.m. on the Monday before each election (Nov. 2).

Effective July 1, voters who are blind, disabled or who cannot read or write may receive assistance in completing the request form. Any member of a multi-partisan assistance team can help any voter in completing a state absentee ballot request form. Team members can also deliver a completed request form to the county board of elections and serve as a witness for casting the ballot.

If someone other than a close relative or legal guardian is assisting a voter, that person's name and address must be listed on the state absentee ballot request form. 

Contact the public information manager, Kristin Mavromatis, at 704-336-2133 or email her at Kristin.Mavromatis@mecklenburgcountync.gov

What If I Am Denied The Right To Vote?

As long as you are 18 years old on Election Day, registered to vote 25 days prior to that date, have lived in the county you’re voting in for 30 days and are not serving time for a felony (including probation and/or parole), you have the right to vote.

Again, North Carolina residents do not need a photo ID to vote, but there are other laws residents should be aware of on Election Day.

You must be registered to vote on Election Day, but you do not have to be affiliated with any political party to vote.

You do not have to pay any money to vote. You also cannot be intimidated to not vote or vote a certain way or to disclose who or what you voted for.

Being able to access the polls is also your right as a voter. If you are unable to access the ballot box, curbside service must be provided.

If you have any problems voting, contact the North Carolina State Board of Elections at 919-814-0700 or at 866-522-4723. You can also email the board at elections.sboe@ncsbe.gov.

If there are issues with casting your vote, you have the right to fill out a provisional ballot on Election Day.

What Is A Provisional Ballot?

A provisional ballot is a ballot that will be counted later after your information and voter registration is confirmed.

If there are issues confirming your voter registration and your name is on the list at your precinct's polling place, you have the right to a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot allows you to cast a vote for the same ballot everyone else is voting on. But because your information must be confirmed, it will not be included in the initial results.

But your vote still counts: If a race is too close to call and provisional ballots could impact who wins, a winner will not be called.

In 2016, about 60,000 provisional votes were cast and about one-third of them were later counted. A provisional ballot does not guarantee your vote will later be counted. However, you have the right to check on the status of your ballot, which you can do here.