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At this point it’s become a cliche to say that, for the 2020 election cycle, the stakes have never been higher. But there’s really no other way to put it. National unrest, a global pandemic, a faltering economy; all are hallmarks of a year that will culminate in the American people choosing to take the country in a different direction or ushering in four more years of the same. So, in the spirit of cliches, here’s another one for you: Your vote matters and it’s never been more important for you to cast it. For many, voting will look a lot different this fall; for others, it will be familiar. We want to make sure you know what all your voting options are and that, on Election Day or in the weeks before, you’re ready to make your voice heard, from the top of the ticket on down.
First of all, are you registered to vote? You can check at vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup/. If you’re not registered, here’s what to do:
How to Register
In North Carolina, if you are a U.S. citizen of at least 18 years old, there are lots of different ways to register to vote. You can apply to register to vote online through the NC DMV website; you can fill out the North Carolina Voter Registration form at your local elections board office* or send it through the mail; or you can register and vote on the same day at sites across your county during the early voting period from October 15–31 (bring your driver’s license or ID and proof of residence). You must register to vote before Election Day on November 3. For more information, check out the Wake County Board of Elections website at wakegov.com/elections.
If you are registered to vote, check out your sample ballot and consider your options. There are more than 100 different ballots for Wake County voters this year, covering everything from U.S. president to state offices to judges and local lawmakers. Be informed. Then, make your game plan: you can vote at your assigned precinct in person on Election Day, at an in-person early voting site with locations all over Wake County, or you can vote by mail using an absentee ballot.
Worried about contracting COVID-19?
Vote by mail-in absentee ballot.
While experts say they don’t expect voting at the polls this year to be any more risky than shopping at the grocery store, no one really knows what the coronavirus pandemic has in store for us this fall. Mail-in absentee ballots are available to all North Carolina registered voters. If you decide to go this route, first, you have to fill out an application requesting that your absentee ballot be mailed to you. Do so here: votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home or find blank applications at the Wake County elections office to fill out and return in person, via mail, fax or email. Once you receive your ballot in the mail (it should take no longer than 10 days), fill it out in the presence of one witness (spouse, friend, roommate); the witness doesn’t have to see who you’re voting for, just that you’re voting. Once you’ve completed your ballot, put it in the return envelope and complete and sign the outside of the ballot return envelope. Your witness will need to complete and sign the witness certification envelope as well. Then, return your absentee ballot to the Wake County Board of Elections office, either by U.S. mail postmarked on or before Election Day, by commercial courier service (FedEx or UPS), or drop it off in person on or before Election Day. You can also drop off your absentee ballot at any early voting site in the county during early voting hours. If you want to track your mail-in ballot, you can call the Wake elections office to make sure it’s been received, or download the state’s BallotTrax app. For more information on any of this, check out ncsbe.gov. Remember, you can request an absentee ballot and not submit it if you decide later on to vote in person—but, of course, you’re only allowed to vote once!
Worried about long
lines on Election Day? Vote early.
Early voting will operate much the same as in prior election years, whereby any registered voter who lives in Wake County can vote at any early voting site in the county during early voting hours. Early voting starts October 15 and lasts through October 31, with hours during the week and on the weekends. For a list of Wake County’s early voting locations and hours, visit wakegov.com/elections/. You can also register to vote at any early voting site during the early voting period (see How to Register).
Want to vote the traditional way?
Vote on Election Day November 3.
It’s an untraditional year but many of us will need that extra time to do our candidate research, especially on those down-ballot races. Remember, if you’re voting on Election Day, you must register to vote before November 3. Polling places are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day and any voter in line by 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to vote; you must vote at your assigned polling place (find that here vt.ncsbe.gov/pplkup/). County election boards will be taking COVID-19 precautions to protect poll workers and voters, enforcing social distancing, providing hand sanitizer and masks, providing single use pens, cleaning surfaces and equipment frequently and other precautions.
*Wake County Board of Elections
1200 N. New Hope Road
Raleigh, NC 27610 (physical address)
PO Box 695
Raleigh, NC 27602 (mailing address)
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