Quick Guide to Voting in North Carolina

Below is a summary of the voting process in North Carolina. Complete details are available at the North Carolina State Board of Elections site.


College students attending school in North Carolina have two choices:

  1. Register and vote in the state/county where your permanent residence/parent's home is (you will submit an absentee ballot if it is not the same as where you attend school) or;
  2. Register to vote in the North Carolina county where you are living while attending school.  If they live on campus, they will use the address or their residence hall or the address that all residential students use. 


To register to vote in a North Carolina county [see below for a list of counties], a person must meet the following qualifications:

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Must be a resident of North Carolina.
  • Prior to voting, must be a resident of the county for at least 30 days prior to election day.
  • Must be at least 18 years old or will be 18 by the date of the next general election.
  • Must rescind any previous registration in another county or state.
  • If previously convicted of a felony, the person’s citizenship rights must be restored (must not be serving an active sentence, including probation or parole).

Registration Process

A person who meets the qualifications above must sign and complete a voter registration application. A printable registration application is available on the NC Board of Elections website and at county boards of elections’ offices, public libraries, high schools and college admissions offices. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires certain agencies in this state to offer voter registration services. The list of agencies is also available at the Board of Elections website.

Once an application is complete the county board of elections will notify registrants of their precinct and polling place assignments by mail (voter card). Voter registration applicants, who have met the voter registration deadline, should expect to receive their voter card within 1 to 2 weeks. 

Deadline to Register

The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before the day of the election which is October 12, 2012 for the November election.

Absentee Ballot

Any registered North Carolina voter can request an absentee ballot by mail. This type of absentee voting allows a voter or a near relative or legal guardian to request that an absentee ballot be sent to the voter by mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is October 30, 2012. The absentee ballot must be received in the County Board of Elections office by 5:00 p.m. If mailed, returned absentee ballots will still be timely if postmarked on or before Election Day, and received no later than 5:00 pm on November 9, 2012.

If you are registered to vote in a state, other than NC, and want to vote absentee, visit Long Distance Voter for the absentee voting rules in your home state.

Want help deciding whether to vote at home or at school? Check out Countmore.org.

One Stop/Early Voting

North Carolinians have the option to vote early between October 18 and November 3.  Click here for the list of early voting locations.  You can also see the site map here.

Party Affiliation

There are three recognized political parties in North Carolina: Democratic, Republican and Libertarian. Voter registration applicants may choose one of these political parties when completing a voter registration application, or they may choose to register as Unaffiliated. North Carolina has a semi-closed primary system. In a partisan primary, voters who are affiliated with a political party may only vote the partisan ballot for the party for which they are affiliated; they are closed to voting in another party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters may vote in any recognized party’s primary, but they may only participate in one.

North Carolina Democratic Party
North Carolina Republican Party
North Carolina Libertarian Party

North Carolina Board of Elections key links

Other Relevant Links

NC Voter Guide (NC State Board of Elections)

NC Voter Guide (NC Center for Voter Education)

NC Voter's Guide (NC-Politics.com)

County Election Board Sites for NC Campus Compact Member Campuses

Alamance Elon University
Buncombe UNC Asheville
Warren Wilson College
Burke Western Piedmont Community College
Cabarrus Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
Catawba Catawba Valley Community College
Lenoir-Rhyne University
Cleveland Gardner-Webb University
Cumberland Fayetteville State University
Methodist University
Davidson Davidson County Community College

Duke University
Durham Technical Community College
North Carolina Central University

Forsyth Wake Forest University

Bennett College for Women
Greensboro College
Guilford College
High Point University
North Carolina A & T State University
UNC Greensboro

Harnett Campbell University
Jackson Western Carolina University

Central Piedmont Community College
Davidson College
Queens University of Charlotte
UNC Charlotte

New Hanover UNC Wilmington
Orange UNC Chapel Hill
Pasquotank Elizabeth City State University
Pitt East Carolina University
Robeson UNC Pembroke
Rowan Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
Stanly Pfeiffer University
Transylvania Campbell University

Meredith College
North Carolina State University
Wake Technical Community College

Watauga Appalachian State University
Wilson Barton College

Click here for all counties.

Election Day North Carolina 101

When is Election Day?
November 6, 2012

Can I Vote Early?

Yes.  North Carolina does allow early voting between October 18, 2012 and November 3, 2012.

One Stop/early voting locations

When are the Polls Open?
Polls are open on Election Day from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in North Carolina.  If you are standing in line at 7:30 p.m. when the polls close you will be allowed to vote.  

What Identification Will I Need?
You do not need any identification to vote on Election Day in North Carolina.  When you go to the registration table at the polling site you will simply state your name and address.  If you are using same-day registration you will need a form of identification to verify your name and address. View a list of acceptable forms of identification for same-day registration.

Are there any Restrictions on What I Can Wear or Do at the Polling Site? (e.g. wear t-shirt with candidates name/bring a list of candidates to remember my choices etc...)
Check out this list compiled by Democracy NC "20 Tips for Hassle-Free Voting."

What is the Process When I Arrive?

  • You will enter the polling site and go to the Registration Desk/Station.
     Each polling site is required to have a "demonstration area" that includes sample ballots and voting instructions if you want to review the ballot before registering.
  • You will need to state (out loud) your name and address. 
  • The Election Assistant at the Registration Desk/Station will verify your information in a book or on a laptop computer which contains the list of registered voters.  [Occasionally there will be a note on the registration list that says "ID required."  If this is your  case, you will need to provide ID]
  • If you are on the registration list, the Election Assistant will print the form (if electronic registration is available) or place the label on an  ATV (Authorization to Vote) form.
  • You will be asked to review and verify the information on the ATV.


  • If the information on the ATV is correct, you will sign your full name, as contained on the form, on the signature line in Section A. 

  • Once you sign your name, the Election Assistant will write their initials and give the form back to you.

  • You will take the form to the ballot station or next available election assistant.  Counties in North Carolina use different ballot methods.  The voting systems used in North Carolina are optical scanning and electronic touchscreen. 

Click here to see what system is used in the NC county where you will vote.

Automark or M100 Optical Scanning:
With this system, you will recieve a card or sheet of paper, which you take over to a private table or booth. The card has the names of the various candidates and ballot measures printed on it. With a pen or pencil you fill in a little box or circle or the space between two arrows. Once you have finished filling out the card, you will feed/instert it into a card-reading machine/scanner.  When Election Day is over, the computer counts how many votes were cast for each candidate.


iVotronic Electronic Touchscreen Machine 
The poll worker/machine assistant will activate the machine. Once he/see leaves the ballot area, the first screen will provide instructions on how to use the machine. After you read the instructions you will touch the arrow at the bottom of the screen to go to the first ballot screen listing the candidates and ballot choices.  You will touch the box next to the candidate or ballot measure.  Move through the ballot using the arrows at the bottom of  each screen. When you come to the end of the ballot you will have the option to review your responses.  You let the system know you are finished voting by touching the screen.  The votes are stored on a computer device like a disk or a cartridge. At the end of the day, results from the cartridge can be printed and read at the polling place or transferred to a central location.

Paper Ballots: 
When you come to the polling place, you will get a paper ballot from the poll worker. You take it to the voting booth, and use a pen or pencil to mark a box next to your candidate and issue choices. You then drop the marked ballot into a sealed ballot box. At the end of the day, votes are counted by poll workers reading the ballots.

NOTE:  You can enter a response to each race/issue presented or skip any to which you do not want to respond. 

  • When you have submitted your ballot, you will exit the polling area.  Don't forget to get your "I Voted" sticker.