All election results in North Carolina from 9/10/2002 onwards are housed on the NCSBE’s Results Lookup Site. Results from the 11/2000 election are also on the NCSBE’s website in compressed raw text form, and other results back to 1991 are retrievable by the state or at each respective county office if you are looking for results from a specific county.
Results prior to 1991 have not been universally electronically compiled, therefore any results older than that will have to be requested from individual county offices to be examined in paper form. For more on conditions surrounding in-person examination of records, see FAQ question “If I cannot find the data I need, how can I request something directly?”.
Our website houses voter registration statistics and various other statistics by legal requirement in our raw statistics directory. We are working on getting this data into a smoother format for consumption, but in the mean time the NC State Board of Elections offers an unbelievably broad amount of data for the entire state at its website.
The data offered at a state level is both in the form of graphs and highlights for your average curious citizen and in compressed raw text form for research purposes. We highly recommend visiting their results and data page if you are looking for comprehensive elections data.
Much of the records housed by an elections office are public record (see FAQ “What information will the Board of Elections office NOT provide me”). Information that is public record may be requested from an elections office at any time, with the following legal conditions:
- Board of Elections offices are under no legal obligation to create or compile any records that do not already exist in complete form (N.C.G.S. 132-6.2(e)). Depending on the timing of a request, personnel availability, and what is being asked for, some offices may perform complex queries to get exactly what a public requester is looking for from a database. However, it is entirely up to the office whether or not they take any action to clean or narrow down raw data for a requester.
- Board of Elections offices are required to allow examination in-person of public records “at reasonable times” or provide requested data that is public record “as promptly as possible”. However, what constitutes “reasonable” and “possible” is largely up to Board of Elections offices, especially during the months immediately preceding and one month following an election. During that time, elections offices will usually not have the time and personnel available to provide large amounts of data by request, or to supervise in-person examination. If a request is substantial, please try to make it outside of the period directly surrounding an election.
- Any in-person inspection of public record documents will likely be supervised by Board of Elections personnel, who have a right to “reasonable” supervision of document inspection, with the office defining “reasonable” once again. In the case that the documents being examined are unredacted and contain information that is not public record, Board of Elections staff are legally required to supervise the inspection (such as in the case of absentee by mail ballot envelope inspection). This is to ensure that no memorandum is being made of any exposed information that is not public record such as voter signatures, absentee ballot ID numbers, etc.
- Board of Elections offices are not required to respond to public records requests outside of regular business hours.
For legal references on items 2-4, consult Numbered Memo 2022-01.
No Board of Elections office will ever provide any of the following information except directly to an election administration body as part of an election protest or to a criminal court by court order:
- Any protected elements of voter registration records (see FAQ question “What part of my voter registration is public record?”)
- Originals/copies of voted ballots or electronic/paper record of individual ballots (such as absentee ballot ID numbers)
- Records of absentee ballot requests received (only prior to Election Day, after Election Day these become public record, but must still have portions redacted in order to be copied)
- Any record displaying or revealing protected security features or access controls of voting systems, ancillary devices such as electronic pollbooks/Ballot On Demand printers, or state electronic resources such as the Statewide Elections Information Management System (SEIMS)
- Any completed or ongoing physical or cybersecurity vulnerability assessments
- Any file paths to network resources, system or computer names, or network information such as temporary/permanent IP Addresses, network port information, etc
- Any employee records aside from position/title, age at year end, and party affiliation
- Any records covered by attorney-client privilege or related to ongoing litigation
- Any information considered to be trade secret by vendors
For legal references on these items, please consult Numbered Memo 2022-01.
One Stop Early Voting hours are posted in a number of different places, once they have been decided (below list applies to Alamance County, but most county offices post hours in similar locations for their county):
- At the Main Elections Office
- In other county buildings such as the Main County Office Building, the County Annex Building, the courthouse, etc
- On the Board of Elections Website
- At One Stop Early Voting sites themselves
Outside of a mandatory period set by the state, individual county Boards have leeway to open One Stop Early Voting for additional time on weekends, and modify some hours as long as said modification does not result in a net loss of total open hours.
Each county Board of Elections sets their own One Stop Early Voting plan, and submits this plan to the State Board of Elections if the plan is unanimously approved. If a county cannot unanimously agree on a plan, which can happen in counties where the Board of Elections sets firm partisan lines in the sand, the State Board of Elections steps in to help figure a plan out.
In Alamance County, there is little contention over One Stop Early Voting hours. Typically, our Board agrees on two additional weekend Early Voting days, a Saturday and a Sunday. Note that the last Saturday prior to an Election is always open for One Stop Early Voting until 3:00pm, any other weekend days are in addition to that Saturday.
The number of early voting sites open during a particular Election is contingent upon volume expected in that Election, jurisdictions applicable, and specific site considerations. The decision of which sites to use each election is up to the Board of Elections, a decision which is typically made 3-5 months prior to an election.
Like hour decisions, this is part of an overall ‘One Stop Plan’ that is submitted by each county to the State Board of Elections. For more detail on this, see FAQ question ‘Why are One Stop Early Voting hours often different between elections?’.
In North Carolina, a voter may choose to both register and vote at the same time during One Stop Early Voting. Note that if you choose to register at One Stop Early Voting, you must vote immediately afterwards in order for your vote to be counted for that particular Election (i.e. you cannot register at One Stop Early Voting, then leave and vote on Election Day). Someone who chooses to register and vote this way is subject to the same requirements anyone who applies for a brand new registration is, with the only major difference being an expedited time frame.
When you register to vote in North Carolina, you must provide a HAVA ID in order to prove residence at a particular address. When registering outside of One Stop Early Voting, if you do not have a document that qualifies as a HAVA ID with you at the time you register, your name will still be placed on the books but you will be denoted in the books as being required to provide a HAVA ID before you can vote.
For the full list of what qualifies as a HAVA ID, see FAQ question “What is a HAVA ID?”.
No, all One Stop Early Voting sites in Alamance County can be voted at by any resident of Alamance County who is eligible to vote. Residence in a particular precinct requiring a person to vote at that particular precinct’s polling place only applies on Election Day.
The following is a list of a North Carolina voter’s legal rights:
- You have the right to cast your vote without having to take or pass any literacy test or meet any property requirements, monetary requirements, or requirements specific to your race, color, or language proficiency including any requirements designed to function as such (N.C. Const. Art. I, § 11, 10, 9; 15th and 24th Amendments to the U.S. Const.; Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965/73)
- You have the right to cast your vote privately and independently (G.S. 163-165.1(e); G.S. 163-273(a); G.S. 163-271; federal Voting Rights Act of 1965/73)
- You have the right to change or correct your ballot before it is cast (08 NCAC 10B .0104(b); G.S. 163-166.7)
- You have the right to vote if you are waiting in line at the moment the polls close (G.S. 163-166.01)
- You have the right to vote a provisional ballot if your eligibility to vote is in dispute (08 NCAC 10B .0103(d); HAVA, 2002)
- You have the right to request assistance with the voting process from a spouse, child, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepparent or stepchild (G.S. 163-166.8(a)(1))
- You have the right to request (from poll workers) an explanation/demonstration of how to vote using any equipment, prior to voting using said equipment (08 NCAC 04 .0305(c)). Note that this right specifically covers the steps one takes to use the machines as a voter at the polling place, no more.
- The following conditional rights also apply:
- If you are unable to enter the polling place due to a disability, you may vote curbside from your vehicle (G.S. 163-166.9)
- If you are unable to physically reach a voting booth without assistance or are unable to mark a ballot without assistance due to disability you may request assistance from anyone except for an employer or union representative (G.S. 163-166.8(a)(2))
- Many other general accessibility related rights are applicable but not directly related to voting (e.g. the right to reasonable wheelchair access to a building, handicapped parking spaces, etc), and are guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (VAEHA) of 1984, the NVRA and HAVA as well as associated state legislation in N.C.G.S. 168A. See listed laws for details.
Note: To read listed legal references for these rights, consult online government sources for denoted sections of the N.C. Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, Federal Voting Rights/Disability Rights legislation, Chpt. 163 of the N.C. General Statutes, and Section 8 of N.C. Administrative Code.
In instances where a section is not denoted, the listed legal document is included as being core legislation from which other specifically denoted legislation is derived, or the right/rights listed are present in multiple pieces of legislation of which the ones not including specific section references are the most general or are applicable to the listed right/rights in their entirety.
This depends on how long it has been since you originally registered and whether or not your registration fully validated.
Regardless of circumstances it is federal law that you can never be denied an opportunity to vote, but depending on what those circumstances are there may be extra steps involved in your voting process, or a provisional ballot may be required. To avoid any extra steps before voting or confusion, please keep your address up to date with your county Board of Elections office.
Yes, you may wear clothing supporting a candidate, party, or political position to vote. You may also have materials given to you by electioneers outside the polling place or elsewhere by political volunteers.
What is prohibited for voters (or anyone) is distributing the above materials inside the polling place, or engaging any voter in discussion that could be considered trying to sway their vote.
Pursuant to 08 NCAC 10B .0107(a), a voter may use electronic materials as reference while voting, but any communication with an outside party is considered to be ‘assistance’ with voting.
In practice, this means that it is permissible to be looking at your phone in the polling place, but if you are talking on it you will be asked to stop.
In North Carolina, there are no laws specifically governing the carrying of weapons at a polling place, however, applicable laws governing public/government and private property still apply.
If a polling place is public/government property, the most common example being a school, no weapons are allowed to be carried within by anyone save an on-duty law enforcement officer. If a polling place is private property, such as a church or a mall, the right to carry a firearm on said property rests on the decision of the property owner.
If a private property owner permits visitors to carry firearms, openly or otherwise, they may do so in a polling place if it is located at such a property. The reverse is also true; if a private property owner does not permit visitors to carry firearms openly or otherwise, they are forbidden from doing so at a polling place that is located at such a property.
Before visiting any polling place with a firearm in North Carolina, ensure that it is private property and that the property owner permits the carrying of firearms within to avoid risking potential prosecution.
This law is currently blocked by a permanent injunction. This means that the law has been officially declared by a trial court to be unconstitutional, and therefore is permanently blocked from being enforced unless this decision is overturned.
The details of legal proceedings surrounding this injunction and various related cases, as well as speculation regarding photo ID’s enforceability in the near future are out of the scope of an FAQ format answer. Details can be found in official court documents and journalistic articles online.
As of December 2022, photo ID will still not be required for the 2023 Municipal Elections.
A ‘buffer zone’ is a location surrounding the entrance to a voting enclosure or the voting enclosure itself that is not the actual voting enclosure but is considered as such with respect to restrictions on electioneering and partisan behavior (N.C.G.S. 163-166.4). Within this zone, as in the voting enclosure itself, NC citizens are entitled to freedom from any influence on how they vote.
This zone extends from the entrance of a polling place a minimum of 25 up to 50 feet depending on the specific site, measured roughly semi-circularly. It also extends six feet circularly around any curbside voter’s vehicle at a minimum, with more distance encouraged where available (Numbered Memo 2020-20 – Note other elements of this memo (specifically related to COVID-19) have since been superseded, but buffer zone guidance still applies).
It is also important to note that the smaller distance affixed to curbside voting guidance is intended to allow for situations where space is limited and/or a line for curbside voting is present. Electioneers are forbidden from communicating with curbside voters who are actually in the process of voting from any distance.
That depends entirely on whether or not you are willing to sign an affidavit stating that you are unable to enter the polling place due to physical disability.
Numbered Memo 2020-20 states “Any voter who votes curbside must sign the curbside affidavit. A person is not eligible to vote curbside solely because they are the driver or passenger in a car with a voter who is eligible to vote curbside”. Note other elements of this memo (specifically those related to COVID-19) have since been superseded, but the above guidance is still current.
So, under current state guidance, curbside voting as it is defined in N.C.G.S. 163-166.9 is taken to be intended solely for those with an attested disability preventing them from accessing the polling place. The requirement for voting curbside is that that voter sign the legally binding affidavit stating they are unable to enter the polling place due to disability.
False attestation to the aforementioned affidavit is a Class I Felony (N.C.G.S. 163-275(4)).
A ‘sample ballot’ is a document containing all physical elements of a live ballot of a particular style, with a visual disclaimer stating that it is not intended for live voting (pursuant to N.C.G.S. 163-165.2(b)). Official disclaimers render a ballot unable to be read; as such, sample ballots are allowed to be copied and distributed (even by third parties) if they were originally from an official source.
Having in one’s possession a document that is functionally a live ballot outside of a polling place, absent permission for such as part of the fulfillment of a statutory obligation along with the presence of accompanying chain of custody procedures, is a crime (N.C.G.S. 163-273(a)(2); N.C.G.S. 163-275(9) (situationally)).
Sample ballots for each jurisdiction are usually available starting 60-90 days before an election, and are always available by 45 days prior to an election, unless the election in question is a second primary, special election, or municipal election following a primary the month before (in the last case, most of the municipal general ballot will be available prior to a municipal primary, excepting only the contest/contests involved in the primary).
Regardless of time frame, when the sample ballots have been created and released, those applicable to each respective county will be available in most or all the following places:
- Posted at county Board of Elections offices
- Posted on county Board of Elections websites
- Available on your voter registration record page when you search your first and last name and registration status in the NCSBE’s Voter Search Tool
- Posted at One Stop Early Voting sites
- Posted at Election Day precincts
- Posted at other county facilities (varies)
- Present as paper copies provided by third parties
Contests’ ordering on a ballot is currently laid out according to legal guidelines contained in N.C.G.S. 163-165.6(b). Candidates within each contest are ordered either strictly alphabetically in the case of municipal elections, or chosen by random drawing at a State level between alphabetically and reverse-alphabetically for each election of other types.
This occurs because of jurisdiction. ‘Jurisdiction’ is the term for a geographic area represented or served by an elected body or official.
For example, the entire state of North Carolina is the jurisdiction of the Governor of North Carolina, so everyone living in North Carolina can vote for Governor of North Carolina, but someone (permanently) living in Austin, Texas cannot send in an Absentee Ballot voting for Governor of North Carolina, because they do not live in North Carolina.
This same concept applies to smaller geographic areas. The most applicable examples in Alamance County are NC House District 63 and NC House District 64. Both of the offices attached to those jurisdictions are offices associated with the state of North Carolina, but ‘North Carolina’ is far from the smallest jurisdiction, and neither of those offices represent the entire state of North Carolina.
The NC House is districted, meaning that each seat is filled by election in a small, non-overlapping geographic slice (district) of North Carolina, and the person elected to each seat is treated as representing their own particular slice of North Carolina in voting for statewide legislation.
So, when you go to vote in Alamance County on an even numbered year in a General Election, you will either see NC House District 64 OR NC House District 63, never both, on your ballot. This is because you do not live in the area represented by the seat corresponding to the contest you are not seeing.
Other Alamance County examples are all Municipal examples. For more information see FAQ questions “Why can I not vote in Burlington if my address is in Burlington, or I pay the city utility fees?” and “Why do I have to vote at a polling place in my county or send my ballot to my county’s elections office if the election I am voting in is based on cities (municipalities) and there is a closer polling place/elections office in another county?”
Currently, you can only vote straight party in North Carolina by selecting the same party for each contest on the ballot individually. There is no longer any option on paper ballots or accessible voting equipment (that prints paper ballots) in North Carolina such that one can vote for all candidates of a single party with a single selection. See N.C.G.S. 163-165.6(f).
The party affiliation of candidates in contests on a ballot is contingent upon whether or not that contest is ‘partisan’. Offices that are considered ‘partisan’ have candidates’ party affiliation listed below their name. Contests that are considered ‘nonpartisan’ do NOT have candidate’s party affiliations listed below their name.
Whether a contest is considered partisan or not varies by associated jurisdiction. Explicit legal verbiage stating such for each individual contest is spread throughout Federal, State, and Local law. The short version is:
- Any contest on a primary ballot will not list any candidates’ party affiliations because the ballots are based on party (i.e. every candidate on a ballot is affiliated with the same party)
- Board of Education and Soil and Water District Supervisor contests are nonpartisan throughout North Carolina, including Alamance County
- Municipal contests can be either nonpartisan or partisan in North Carolina based on a municipality’s choice. Alamance County municipal contests are all nonpartisan.
- All other statewide NC contests are partisan
- All Federal contests are partisan
‘Assistance’, as the term is used when talking about voting a ballot, describes any action someone may take to help someone vote when present or communicating with a voter voting their ballot, up to and including filling out a ballot for a voter upon request with the voter present and determining the selections.
Note that at a polling place or One Stop Site, a person (other than a poll worker explaining how to vote) maintaining physical presence or being on the phone with a voter at a voting booth constitutes ‘assistance’, regardless of whether or not the person is actually acting to assist a voter, because it cannot be adequately determined that they are not.
Within the context of assisting a disabled voter, the assisting party may not seem to be suggesting any particular choice or seem to be attempting to sway the voter in any way (G.S. 163-166.8(c)). Behaving in such a manner while assisting a disabled voter opens one up to the potential of accusations of voter intimidation.
It is true that Boards of Elections and their associated staff are charged with determining individuals’ eligibility to vote based on United States and North Carolina elections law. However, arbitrarily determining an individual’s ability to understand vote selections they are making based on situational evidence pertaining to their mental state is outside of the legal scope of all elections Boards and personnel.
When considering whether or not an individual is eligible to vote based on mental competency, Boards of Elections are only able to consider one factor pursuant to N.C.G.S 122C-58; whether or not the individual in question’s legal right to vote has been precluded by unrevoked adjudication of incompetency.
An adjudication of incompetency must be petitioned for, and is granted or denied pursuant to definitions and guidance outlined in N.C.G.S. 35A. For more information, contact a legal representative or consult legal sources.
Yes, you may leave contests on your ballot blank if you do not wish to vote for any candidate in that contest with no machine warning messages (except verification of what you are doing to make sure it wasn’t a mistake when generating a ballot on the ExpressVote).
You may also cast a completely blank ballot, but feeding a blank ballot into the DS200 Tabulator will currently require you to actually confirm through a subsequent screen that casting a blank ballot is in fact what you intended before the machine will ‘count’ it. If a voter chooses to cast a blank ballot, that ballot would simply register internally as having passed through the machine for the purpose of official counts, because there would be no votes on the ballot.
These verification steps are to ensure that no reasonable legal argument can be made that someone misunderstood what they were doing when they cast a blank ballot or a ballot where some contests were not voted for (or ONLY in the case of the ExpressVote, less than the number of allowed candidates was voted for, an undervote).
This is important because once a person casts their ballot into the DS200 Tabulator and it successfully passes through the scanner that is their vote. After that occurs, the ballot will not be retrieved and that individual will not be permitted to vote another (non-provisional) ballot.
A ballot is considered ‘cast’, after which it cannot be changed and replacement ballot cannot be issued:
- On Election Day and at One Stop Early Voting, the moment it successfully passes through the DS200 Scanner and into the bottom compartment
- For Absentee by Mail Ballots, after the ballot has been mailed or physically returned to a county elections office (N.C.G.S 163-233.1).
Note that in any situation outside of the norm, such as if it is claimed that a ballot was cast without a voter’s permission, legal procedure is to have that voter cast a provisional ballot. Such situations are the core purpose of provisional ballots. Once a ballot has been cast in an individual’s name they will not be permitted to cast another non-provisional ballot under any circumstances.
Voting for too many candidates in a contest is called an overvote. If you accidentally vote for too many candidates in a contest, the DS200 Tabulator will indicate this has occurred when you cast your paper ballot (on the ExpressVote ballot marking device, it will never generate an overvoted ballot because it does not let you select more than the allowed number of candidates).
When the DS200 Tabulator displays the overvoted ballot screen, you should let the Tabulator Assistant (the person watching the machine) know and they will explain your choices to you. You can either cast the ballot, which treats the overvoted contest as blank but counts all correctly voted contests, or you may ask that the ballot be returned, that ballot will be spoiled, then you may vote a new ballot. See FAQ question “What does it mean to ‘spoil’ a ballot?” for more information on ballot spoiling.
Under state law (08 NCAC 10B .0104(B)), a voter may redo their ballot up to three times (for a total of four attempts at voting properly). Regardless of circumstances, a fourth attempt at casting a ballot is a voter’s final attempt at casting a ballot through the DS200 Tabulator. Any disputed circumstances are handled through provisional voting.
Provisional voting currently results when a voter has shown up to a One Stop Early Voting site or an Election Day polling place to vote and for whatever reason their eligibility cannot be verified, or in any other circumstance where a voter insists upon voting a ballot but election officials are unable to legally tabulate it immediately.
Because of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), it is Federal law that any voter whose eligibility to vote is disputed must be given a provisional ballot. The provisional process, as it is in North Carolina (which is also fairly consistent across all 50 states with slightly differing situational information), involves a voter filling out a ballot and answering a precinct judge’s questions to provide information necessary for researching the voter’s eligibility to vote during canvass week after Election Day.
Once the process is completed, the judge seals the ballot in an envelope and keeps it in a separate secure container designated as ‘provisional’. Provisional ballots are never tabulated at the time they are filled out.
Provisional ballots are returned to each County Board of Elections office on Election Night. Each corresponding voter’s situation is analyzed over the course of the following week prior to County Canvass Day, the date upon which results are finalized at a county level.
Part of the information required of the voter during the provisional voting process is their contact information. The week after Election Day, a provisional voter may be contacted by the Board of Elections office in order to obtain more information if necessary.
On Canvass Day, research is presented to each respective county’s Board of Elections, identifying why each ballot (or grouping of ballots in the case of more cut and dry situations) is or is not considered by the office staff to be valid. After the final determination is made on any ballots for which a determination must be made by the Board, the valid ballots are tabulated using the DS850 Central Count Tabulator and added to final county election totals.
When a voter votes a provisional ballot, they are given a set of instructions explaining how they may check to see if their ballot was accepted or not after it has been considered on Canvass Day. Elections personnel will not contact provisional voters with this information.
‘Spoiling’ a ballot refers to the legally defined procedure for invalidating a ballot for voting use. Some examples of situations where this is done are:
- When a ballot is damaged or otherwise unreadable by machine
- When a ballot is overvoted or mistakenly voted and spoiling is requested by a voter
- When a voter decides they actually do not want to vote after already being issued a ballot
Spoiled ballots are marked ‘spoiled’ with a stamp and placed in a separate container from other ballots. These ballots are never discarded, because they are necessary for ballot reconciliation procedures (i.e. checking to ensure that the number of ballots returning from a polling place to Board of Elections personnel is the same number that was issued to that polling place).
The State Board of Elections offers a Voter Search Tool where any voter can be looked up by their birth date, full name, and registration status. This record is populated directly from SEIMS, North Carolina’s statewide voter registration system. After each Election, every voter that voted has their record in SEIMS updated to reflect them having voted. Wait to check this information until Canvass Day, as the process for entering this information and ensuring its accuracy is time consuming.
That information is based on ATV (Authorization to Vote) forms at each precinct, which are a voter’s record of having voted. What a voter voted for is not included in this search, as revealing such is illegal, and is recorded by voting machine separate from the ATV forms.
For information on additional means with which provisional voters can confirm their ballot was counted, see FAQ question “What is provisional voting?”.
On Election Day in North Carolina, you must vote at the polling place corresponding to the precinct in which you live.
You may vote at any One Stop Early Voting site in your county during the One Stop Early Voting period, and may vote anywhere utilizing Absentee by Mail as long as the ballot is returned to your county’s Board of Elections office.
This is because on Election Day each polling place only has the registration list for their attached precinct, which is how the system is intended to work legally. One Stop Early Voting sites are different because poll workers there have access to the entire county’s registration list, as they are permitted to vote anyone in the county at any site.
The State Board of Elections in North Carolina maintains a very useful online registration lookup site, the Voter Search Tool. Using this tool, you can search for yourself using your first and last name, birth date, and registration status. The resulting record, if it corresponds to you, will display your precinct and voting place (along with a lot of other useful information such as your sample ballot).
If you find you are incapable of using the Voter Search Tool (it conforms to ADA accessibility as well, so try it before you call, it really is useful and simple to use) we would be happy to look you up if you call our office at the number in our contact information at the bottom of each page on this site.
Currently in North Carolina, polls are open statewide from 6:30am to 7:30pm on Election Day. This does not change election to election and is tightly conformed to unless for whatever reason a polling place is delayed in opening or is prevented from operating during the day for a period of time. In the latter case, the State Board of Elections can authorize certain polling places in that county to remain open for a commensurate amount of time on Election Night.
Also note that if you are in line when poll closing time arrives, you will always be afforded an opportunity to vote.
‘Municipality’ is a blanket term for the smallest unit of corporate, partially self-governing geographic area in the United States. Common descriptive terms for municipalities differ by region, size, or arbitrary decision but some common ones are ‘city’, ‘town’, and ‘village’. Elections at this level are officially called ‘municipal elections’, but can also commonly be referred to as ‘local’ elections.
Municipalities have the widest variation in the nuances of conducting their elections across the United States. This is because they often have far less total population than larger self-governing areas and therefore can afford more experimentation and flexibility with how votes are collected, within the boundaries of state and federal law as well as the boundaries of what who is administering those elections is capable of legally and monetarily. In North Carolina, municipal elections are administered at a county level.
In Alamance County, there are currently ten municipalities: the Village of Alamance, the City of Burlington, the City of Graham, the City of Mebane, the Town of Elon, the Town of Gibsonville, the Town of Green Level, the Town of Haw River, the Town of Swepsonville, and the Town of Ossipee.
Unlike larger self-governing jurisdictions, there is no guarantee at this smallest level that every person actually lives in a municipality. Boundaries do not overlap, but they also do not cover the entirety of all counties. For example, only slightly over 50% of Alamance County’s registered voters actually live in a municipality. A good way to know municipal boundaries in this county is to visit Alamance County GIS’ Interactive Map. The colored areas on the map are the areas covered by municipalities. Any area outside those zones is not part of any municipality.
In order to vote in a municipal election you have to reside permanently within the bounds of one of these municipalities. There are a few confusing aspects to this involving cities listed in mailing addresses and bill payment; for more details see FAQ questions “Why was I told I cannot vote in a Burlington Primary or Municipal Election if my address is in Burlington, and/or I pay city utilities?”.
Many municipalities cross county lines. In Alamance County, most of the municipalities of Burlington, Gibsonville, and Mebane are in Alamance County, but some of their municipal boundaries cross into Guilford or Orange counties, respectively.
Because the smallest level of election administration is the county level in North Carolina, municipal results are collected by county. How this came about legally is too convoluted to explain here, but the bottom line is that because results are collected, and determination of eligibility to vote is acquired and verified, by precinct (and is based on precinct residency), only the office of the county in which you live has the means to easily verify your residency and registration.
Hence, all voting related actions you take must be done with the office of the county you reside in, including casting a ballot, because a county you do not live in has no immediate means with which to validate your eligibility to vote.
Eligibility to vote in a municipality is based on the incorporated boundaries of said municipality. Street addresses are based on a separate system designed for mail delivery, not municipal boundaries, therefore you can have an address listed as being in a city without actually living in the municipality.
For example, most people living in the municipality of Swepsonville actually have a Graham, NC address. But if they were to vote in a municipal election, they would receive a Swepsonville ballot, not a Graham one, because they don’t actually live within the municipal boundaries of Graham, they live in Swepsonville, a separate municipality.
Often, people will tell you that the way to know if you actually live in a municipality or not is that if you pay taxes to the city, you live in the municipality, and if you don’t, then you don’t. What people fail to mention when using that explanation is that by ‘taxes’ they mean property taxes. Utilities and trash payments include taxes, but are payments for services rendered by the city, not taxes themselves. You may pay Burlington utilities because they are the closest source of water to your residence, but not actually live in the Burlington municipality.
When mentioning voting and property taxes, it is important to note that requiring someone to own property to vote in any election is illegal and unconstitutional at a Federal and State level. Paying property taxes to a city is just an indication that you do in fact live within the boundaries of the city, not a requirement for voting in a municipality. It is also possible to live in an apartment or rental property within the boundaries of Burlington, and you can vote if that is the case for you, but in that case you wouldn’t be paying property taxes.
Ultimately residential eligibility for voting in a municipal election all comes down to your permanent residence’s actual geographic location, which is determined through GIS mapping. If a Board of Elections office tells you that you cannot vote in a municipality, they are getting that information directly from a precise electronic map.
A Primary Election is, in layman’s terms, an election held to narrow the number of candidates running for each office down to only one per open seat per party (or a similar explicitly defined limit for nonpartisan contests, in the case that such a limit exists).
For example, if twelve people file to run for US Senate in North Carolina, not all twelve will make it on the ballot for the General Election. Instead, to cut down on the sheer number of choices on each ballot in the General Election, Primary Elections are held as preliminary ‘rounds’ to decide who gets to be each party’s chosen candidate (or candidates) for a contest, or just to narrow the field to a limit in the case of nonpartisan contests.
Since a contest being included in a primary election is contingent upon there being more than one candidate for one party or more than a limit of candidates in a nonpartisan contest, it is rare that all contests that will be on the ballot in a November General Election are on all primary ballots. Each party’s ballot in a primary may not have the same contests on it either, for the same reason.
North Carolina primaries are closed, meaning that only people affiliated with a particular party or Unaffiliated voters that have chosen for the duration of a single primary period to vote a single party’s ballot can vote their party’s (or for Unaffiliated voters, chosen party’s) ballot. For more on Unaffiliated voters and primaries, see FAQ questions “I am registered Unaffiliated. May I vote in a primary election?” and “Why would I be unable to vote in certain contests in a primary or in certain primaries as an Unaffiliated voter if I am entitled to vote any party’s ballot for that particular primary?”
Also, uncommonly, a single primary will fail to narrow the field in a contest or a handful of contests to the required amount because the margin of votes between candidates is too close to definitively declare them a particular party’s candidate (or, in contests with multiple seats, the cutoff margin of votes is too close). In this case, a second Primary is held, featuring just those contests.
Yes, in North Carolina Unaffiliated voters may vote in a Primary Election if one or more of the parties participating in a Primary Election grant that right universally for an upcoming election. While it is any party’s right to choose not to grant Unaffiliated voters the right to vote ballots of their affiliation, they rarely do so.
Note that there are some conditions to voting as an Unaffiliated voter in a Primary Election aside from whether or not that right has been extended:
- An Unaffiliated voter must choose which party’s ballot they will vote in a Primary Election. Once the chosen ballot is cast they cannot vote another party’s ballot in addition to the first one, or invalidate the first ballot in order to vote another party’s ballot.
- If an Unaffiliated voter chose to vote a particular party’s ballot in a Primary Election, if there is a Second Primary Election, they must vote that same party’s ballot in that Election. This also means that if a Second Primary Election occurs just for contests of one party and an Unaffiliated voter has already chosen to vote the opposite party’s ballot, they may NOT vote in that Second Primary.
- Unaffiliated voters may also choose to vote a ballot containing only nonpartisan items, if they are included on a primary ballot. Note that this also will lock them out of voting any particular party’s ballot in any Second Primary, but will still allow them to vote a nonpartisan ballot in the rare (almost unheard of) event that there is a Second Primary for nonpartisan offices.
- Conversely, if an unaffiliated voter did NOT vote in the original Primary Election, they may choose to vote a ballot in a Second Primary of any party affiliation.
Whatever choice an Unaffiliated voter makes for the duration of all Primaries does not apply in associated General or Municipal General Elections, as which ballot a voter gets in those elections is not based on party, but on jurisdiction. For more information on jurisdictional nuances related to Unaffiliated voters voting in a Primary or Second Primary, see FAQ question “Why would I be unable to vote in certain contests in a primary or in certain primaries as an Unaffiliated voter if I am entitled to vote any party’s ballot in a primary?”.
A registration of Unaffiliated does NOT entitle a voter to vote in a primary or for a contest in a primary that only corresponds to a particular jurisdiction that that voter is not a part of.
Jurisdiction and party requirements for voting in particular contests during Primary Elections are completely separate. If someone who is registered Unaffiliated wishes to vote in a primary on a particular party’s ballot they will receive a ballot containing only that party’s primary contests for the jurisdictions applicable to them.
For example, if three Republican candidates file for NC House District 64 and six file for US Senate in an election, both will be on a Republican primary ballot. However, an Unaffiliated voter living in NC House District 63 who chooses to vote a Republican ballot will receive a ballot that does NOT contain the NC House District 64 contest, because they do not live there. The ballot they receive would be the same ballot someone who was a registered Republican who lives in NC House District 63 would receive.
If someone who is registered Unaffiliated wishes to vote in a primary but there are no contests for their jurisdiction on any party’s ballot or on a nonpartisan ballot, they cannot vote in that primary. For example, an Unaffiliated voter living outside of Burlington city limits would be unable to vote in the Burlington Primary for either party or in nonpartisan contests, because they do not live in Burlington.
This also applies to second primaries. For example, say an Unaffiliated voter living in NC House District 64 voted a Democratic ballot in a Primary Election in which both NC House District 63 and NC House District 64 were on the Democratic primary ballot, receiving a ballot with NC House District 64 included. If a Second Primary is called and the only contest on the Democratic Second Primary ballot is the NC House District 63 contest, they cannot vote in that second primary, because there are no Democratic contests in which they are eligible to vote.
Yes, all party changes prior to a primary election must be made by the voter registration deadline for that Primary Election.
In is important to note that unlike failing to register prior to the voter registration deadline, if you are already registered prior to a primary and you fail to change your party affiliation prior to the voter registration deadline you will NOT be able to change your party affiliation at One Stop Early Voting prior to a primary in order to vote in the primary with the new affiliation.
Absentee by Mail Voting
Across the U.S., there are dozens of laws in each state governing the minutiae of requesting, filling out, signing, returning, cancelling, and tabulating an Absentee by Mail ballot. The systems vary widely, from universal mail-in voting where every registered voter is automatically sent a ballot in the mail each Election and only very limited options for voting in person exist at all, to states which still limit all Absentee by Mail voting solely to those with a disability and impose as many restrictions on its use for that purpose as courts will allow under Federal law.
Many nuances exist aside from the two mentioned above, including whether or not a near relative can return a ballot for you, identification/citizenship requirement differences between mail voting and in person voting, the presence or absence of ballot drop boxes, etc.
For more on the specifics of our system, explore the rest of the FAQ questions in this section.
In North Carolina, each Absentee by Mail ballot must be requested separately for each individual Election (N.C.G.S. 163-230.2(a)(7)). The only exceptions to this are:
- UOCAVA Military and Overseas ballots, a request for one of which can be denoted as a request for a UOCAVA ballot for every election in a particular calendar year
- Someone with a disability who has attested to an illness or disability that will likely prevent them from voting in person for the next calendar year can request to receive an Absentee by Mail ballot for every election in a particular calendar year (N.C.G.S. 163-226 (b))
- Someone who has requested an Absentee by Mail ballot for a Primary (of a particular type, if the person in question is registered Unaffiliated) may choose to automatically receive an Absentee by Mail ballot for any associated Second Primary, if such a Primary occurs and they are eligible to vote in it (N.C.G.S. 163-227.1)
For more on UOCAVA ballots, see FAQ question “What is a UOCAVA or Military and Overseas ballot?”.
No, photo identification is not required to vote by mail in North Carolina. North Carolina’s legal requirements related to photo identification are all permanently enjoined by the courts as of December 2022.
What is required, only if the registrant voting Absentee by Mail is a first-time voter in an even year Federal election in North Carolina, is a photocopy of a HAVA ID. This can be one of a long list of documents. For the entire list, and for more contextual information, see FAQ question “What is a HAVA ID?”.
Neither requesting nor receiving an Absentee by Mail ballot bar an individual from later changing their mind and choosing to vote in person at One Stop Early Voting or on Election Day instead. However, returning an Absentee by Mail ballot does bar an individual from doing so.
Furthermore, if someone returns an Absentee by Mail ballot then proceeds to vote in person at One Stop Early Voting or on Election Day as well, they will be risking charges of double voting. As it is explicitly stated in law that Absentee by Mail ballots, once returned, cannot be cancelled (N.C.G.S 163-233.1), a good case can be made that a voter who goes to vote in person after returning an Absentee by Mail ballot should be aware and is therefore expecting that both ballots will be counted and as such is attempting to vote multiple times in a single Election.
NC County Boards of Elections never send out Absentee Ballot Request Forms to voters unless a voter has specifically requested one. If you have received such a form in the mail unsolicited, but do not intend to vote Absentee by Mail, simply ignore it. Absentee Ballot Request Forms are, by law (N.C.G.S. 163-230.2), provided for free by the State Board of Elections. As such, third party groups often distribute them through mailings.
If you do wish to vote Absentee by Mail, feel free to request a ballot using the form a third party sent you, as long as it is the correct one, which can be found on the NCSBE’s website (link is to the landing page for Voting by Mail, as request form layouts change regularly).
A mistake on an absentee ballot itself, such as filling out bubbles improperly or voting for too many candidates in a contest will not be detected until the ballot is tabulated. Depending on when it is returned, this may be in a meeting prior to an election or after Election Day itself.
Regardless of when it is run, the voter corresponding to that ballot will be unlikely to be present. Rather than individually contacting each voter to redo their ballot (which is not permitted for mistakes on a ballot itself), what happens in this case is the following:
- The DS850 Central Count Tabulator cannot read a ballot.
- If it is determined there is a deficiency with the ballot or it will not read after multiple attempts, it is brought to the Board of Elections for analysis.
- At this point the situation branches:
- If the ballot is determined to have a contest or contests in which the voter voted for too many candidates and it cannot be reasonably determined which of the chosen candidates is the one they would have preferred to vote for, the ballot is run again under different settings in order to count the contests that are properly voted and cancel those that are not.
- If the ballot is determined to have a contest or contests in which the voter voted for too many candidates and it CAN be reasonably determined which of the chosen candidates is the one they would have preferred to vote for (i.e. they voted for four Board of Education members but crossed one bubble out), the ballot is duplicated with the voter’s correctly deduced intent and the duplicated ballot is cast as their ballot.
- If the ballot is determined to have a deficiency resulting from misprinting or damage such that the machine will never be able to properly determine votes from it, the ballot is duplicated with the voter’s same votes and the duplicated ballot is cast as their ballot.
For more details on what ballot duplication is, see FAQ question “What is ballot duplication?”.
Once an Absentee by Mail ballot has been mailed to the Board of Elections, unless the voter has marked that they would like the enclosed ballot to be spoiled and a new one to be issued on the absentee return envelope, it is considered cast, and as such cannot be cancelled (N.C.G.S 163-233.1).
An individual can request an Absentee by Mail ballot for someone else only under the following circumstances:
- The requesting individual is a near relative (spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent or stepchild; see N.C.G.S 163-226(f)) or legal guardian of the person for whom the ballot is intended
- The individual requesting the ballot is doing so for someone with a disability, is not the disabled individual’s employer or union representative, and fills out requisite sections of the request form related to assisting a disabled voter (see Numbered Memo 2022-11).
Ballot duplication is the structured process of officially recreating the ballot of a voter who is not present during ballot tabulation. This is done when a ballot has either been damaged and therefore cannot be run through one of the machines, or is in danger of being partially uncounted because of a mistake said voter made on the ballot that can be easily corrected.
Note that ‘duplicating’ a ballot is only done by a bipartisan team (one Democrat and one Republican) during an open Board of Elections Absentee meeting. Ballot duplication is never done at polling places, One Stop Early Voting sites, or anywhere else absent the actual Board of Elections itself. Ballot duplication occurs according to the following procedure:
- One of the two individuals involved takes the original ballot stamped ‘Original’, the other takes a blank ballot stamped ‘Duplicate Ballot’
- The individual with the original ballot reads the voter’s selections from that ballot out loud, contest by contest
- The individual with the blank ballot records what the other individual reads aloud, contest by contest
- When the duplicate ballot is complete, the individuals swap ballots and ensure that the correct votes were read or recorded, respectively, by the other. If this process is done by a bipartisan team that does not consist of two Board of Elections members, two Board of Elections members also verify that the correct selections were made.
A UOCAVA ballot is also sometimes called a Military and Overseas ballot. ‘UOCAVA’ stands for the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. This act, originally passed at a Federal level in 1986 and modified in 2010, lays out methods by which United States military personnel on active duty and private citizens overseas for an extended period of time can vote in Federal contests.
Much like other major Federal voting legislation, it later became applicable through individual state laws to state and local contests as well.
The specifics of this act are numerous, but some notable examples of what it allows for military and overseas voters are:
- Transmission of ballots by email or fax
- Acceptance of ballots received after Election Day but before Canvass Day with no attested or proven accompanying extenuating circumstances required
- Early mailing of ballots, when requested and available
- Requesting of ballots for all elections in the current year with a single request, sent separately and when available
- Waiving of any requirement to reject ballots due to any circumstance outside of essential missing information required to identify where the ballot came from (i.e. small procedural mistakes are allowed in the process that are not allowed for domestic Absentee by Mail voters but elections offices still cannot just tabulate a UOCAVA ballot that cannot be tied to a specific individual)
- The ability to vote a ballot containing only Federal contests, issued by the Federal Government and returned to the county Board of Elections of the individual’s last lived at domestic address
More state specifics for these ballots may be read in Article 21A of N.C.G.S Chapter 163.
Beginning in the early 2000s, North Carolina established their Statewide Election Information Management System (SEIMS). SEIMS evolved gradually, and today is the core of how North Carolina elections administrators execute elections, house and maintain registration data, and perform other legally defined duties.
SEIMS is the combination of our statewide voter registration data and the applications necessary to work with it. The database contains the registration records and all associated data (such as voter history) for the entire state. Each individual county has access to their own little corner of the database, corresponding to the registered voters in their county, and is responsible for maintaining the accuracy of the data within that corner at an administrative (not technical) level.
Similar systems exist in all 50 states.
You may look yourself up using your first and last name/birth date as well as your registration status on the NCSBE’s Voter Search Tool in order to check many of your registration details. If you cannot find yourself, or have other questions about your registration, please call our office at the number listed in our contact information.
Voter registration forms can be acquired directly from the Board of Elections office, at One Stop Early Voting sites, at Election Day polling places, at the DMV, at libraries, at High Schools, and more.
Forms filled out on paper can be turned in at the Board of Elections office. The DMV can initiate registrations and send them directly to us, and registrations can be sent to us that way through the DMV online as well!
If you are looking for voter registration forms for distribution as a political or nonprofit effort, you will need to get these forms directly from our office in person.
You can change your address or other information on your registration by filling out the requisite section on your voter registration card and returning it to our office, coming to do so in person at our office, or at the DMV on any number of forms.
You may also make changes at Election Day polling places and One Stop Early Voting sites under specific circumstances, but it is always better to make changes to your registration record by the voter registration deadline 25 days prior to an election.
The key element to a registration change is the voter’s signature. Regardless of what change is being initiated and the format in which it was initiated, a signature must be accompanying it.
Mistaken removals and other more complicated problems with registrations should be handled directly with the Board of Elections office. If you are unable to denote a change on any forms available at the places listed above, come to our office directly.
Every part of a voter’s registration information (herein, ‘voter’ refers to ‘registered person’, not necessarily ‘person who voted’) is public record except for the following:
- A voter’s date of birth
- A voter’s partial or full social security number
- A voter’s drivers’ license number
- A voter’s email address
- The location a voter originally registered at, or the means by which they registered (i.e. online or in-person, DMV or library, etc)
- Copies of any identification documents provided during registration or voting
- Retrievable ballot ID numbers for Absentee ballots corresponding to voters
- The addresses of ‘confidential’ voters (a protection extended only by court order)
- A voter’s signature
In North Carolina, the voter registration deadline for an Election is always 25 calendar days prior to Election Day for that particular Election.
If you miss the voter registration deadline for an Election, you may register at One Stop if you bring along a HAVA ID. Also note that if you register at One Stop Early Voting, you must vote in that election immediately at that One Stop site. You cannot register at One Stop Early Voting then leave and vote in that election on Election Day.
For specifics regarding HAVA IDs, see FAQ question ‘What is a HAVA ID?’.
A HAVA ID refers to a document that fills the federal requirement of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to have provided a form of identification containing your name and address prior to voting.
Note that this refers to the Federal requirement which is only required when you originally register or at the polling place ONLY if the form of identification you provided when you originally registered did not validate, or you never provided one. The State requirement to provide photo identification prior to casting any vote is currently blocked by permanent injunction. For more information on the state requirement and why it is not currently enforced, see FAQ question that begins “In 2018 North Carolinians passed a referendum…”.
Acceptable HAVA IDs are the following:
- An NC drivers license or state ID, expired or unexpired
- A government issued ID, expired or unexpired
- Any of the following non-photo documents as long as they include both a full name and address (within 3 months of use as a HAVA ID, can be a copy or electronic version):
- A utility statement
- A paycheck from an employer
- A private bank statement
- A property tax statement issued by a government agency
- A vehicle statement issued by a government agency
- A government check, including any Social Security, employment, pension, benefit, or reimbursement check from any government entity
- A government invoice, statement, or receipt
- A public housing identification card, lease, or rental statement
- Any public educational institution official documents, including a student ID card, transcript, tuition statement, invoice, or receipt issued by any public educational institution
- A government insurance plan card, government drug discount card, or drug prescription issued by a government care facility (including military facilities)
- Discharge certificates, pardons, or other governments documents issued in connection with the resolution of a criminal case, indictment, sentence, or other matter
- Public transportation authority cards, invoices, receipts, or correspondence
- Public assistance or disability agency documents
- Documents issued by any government shelter or temporary/transitional housing facility
- A drug prescription issued by a government doctor or other governmental health care provider
- A college or university roster entry used in conjunction with a student ID (in the case that the ID does not include the address)
The two terms are often used interchangeably at a local level to refer to voters, candidates, or elected officials. However, the correct term for a voter who is not registered as a member of a particular party is ‘Unaffiliated’ in North Carolina.
The term ‘Independent’, in the context of United States elections, is most commonly used to refer to an already elected legislator affiliated with a party, but who is known for often voting across party lines (i.e. instead of their votes being dependent on what their party as a whole decides to vote as a bloc for, they make their own decision on each individual issue). This is the more correct definition of a person who is ‘Independent’. Some states do officially list candidates as ‘Independent’, but not North Carolina.
The term ‘removed’ does not mean that a voter and all their information is simply deleted from the registration database. ‘Removed’ in the context of voter registration means that their status in the database is changed to ‘Removed’.
This moves their information to a separate list of ‘removed’ voters (retained for ten years), purging some information permanently but retaining detailed information regarding reasoning and circumstances for removal.
Yes, you may request your own removal from the registration database by filling out a Registration Cancellation Form, which can be accessed at the attached link, on the NCSBE’s website, or filled out in person at your county Board of Elections office.
This form, once filled out, must be returned to your county Board of Elections office by the voter who it corresponds to in person. This form must always be accompanied by a signature.
Deceased registrants can be removed from the voter rolls only if it has been confirmed through legally defined means that the voter is deceased. This is to ensure that no one moves to remove someone from the voter rolls, by design or by accident, who is actually still alive.
The primary legally defined way in which a deceased voter can be removed is by their name appearing on a list of everyone who died in the state of North Carolina sent monthly from the DHHS to the State Board of Elections. When the State Board of Elections receives this list, they run it against the statewide voter registration database and send each individual county matches of registrants who have died. Each individual county confirms that the names sent are in fact those of the people in their individual databases (which are subsets of the statewide registration database, for more information see FAQ question “What exactly is the ‘voter registration database’?) then removes them themselves. There is also a county level version of this list sent directly from DHHS to each county which is compared against the state one to improve matching at a state level, as well as a ‘DHHS search’ which allows counties to search death records going back years to continually verify as few as possible are missed.
The DHHS list is the most definitive means of confirming a voter is in fact dead, but sometimes the names that show up on those lists only show up months after they died, depending on the exact circumstances and location of death (for example, someone who died outside the state or during travel abroad unbeknownst to their family).
Faster removals are permitted for individual counties using lists of deceased people in the county from the local register of deeds. This is not required, but most counties do leverage this, including Alamance County. It is also worth noting that this method only covers county residents who died within their home county. As a result, county offices often communicate between themselves to notify each other early of deaths of residents outside of their home county.
The final official way of receiving death notice is by a near relative (for definition of ‘near relative’ see FAQ question “What are my explicitly defined legal rights as a voter?”) filling out and returning a Notification of Deceased Voter Form. Any near relative can also accomplish the same purpose by filling out ‘voter is deceased’ information on a NCOA mailing (for more information on official mailings, see FAQ question “I received a card from my county Board of Elections, what is it and why was it sent to me?”).
Some counties also look through local obituaries for registered voters, but that method cannot be legally used alone for removing someone from the voter rolls. It only serves as a starting point to provide a list of people who could be dead prior to receiving official confirmation.
Edge cases, such as deaths outside the state or country, can lead to delays between the actual date a person died and their removal from the database, but every legal effort is made in North Carolina to remove deceased voters from the voter rolls.
Federal legislation, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), required states to implement their own policy, following certain general guidelines, for the removal of voters who do not vote for a certain period of time and do not respond to any attempts at contact from a County Board of Elections office.
In answer to this requirement North Carolina enacted the following, pursuant to N.C.G.S 163-82.14: Twice per year, a voter who has not made or responded to any contact with a County Board of Elections office or voted in two federal election cycles (four years) will be sent a mailed document intended for return asking them to confirm that they still live at the location they are listed as living in state registration records. This document is mailed to the address listed under their name in the state registration system, and if no response is received in 30 days, they are moved to a status of ‘inactive’.
Inactive voters are still registered voters. If they present to vote in an election while they are still inactive, they must verbally verify that they still live at the address on file or update their address at the polling place, then they are allowed to vote. However, if another four years from the first mailing passes (counted once again by federal election cycles) without any contact or voting on the part of the voter, a total of eight years since last contact or vote, the person is removed from the voter rolls, and they must re-register in order to vote.
We send out mailings to registered voters according to the following situations (aside from Absentee by Mail voting correspondence, which is always by request):
- We send out regular list maintenance cards after every even year congressional Election to any voter on the registration lists who has not voted, made any contact with us, or answered any of our mailings in two congressional elections (four years) in order to confirm these voters still live at the address they are registered. If you receive one of these cards, mail it back to us denoting that you still reside at the address to which it was sent. For more information on this, see FAQ question “Under what circumstance are voters who are NOT deceased removed from the voter registration database?”.
- We also send out National Change of Address mailings twice a year, in January and July. These mailings are sent to a list of voters whose names and form of identification on file match a list from the Postal Service of those who have applied for a mailing address change in the prior six months. If you receive one of these cards, mail it back to us confirming that you now live at the address you applied to change your mailing address to, or stating that you were just changing your mailing address, and would like your residential address to remain the same.
- The third type of mailing we send is mailings directly related to registration action taken. These either are a verification of the address given when a person originally registers, or a confirmation sent after a change of address. If you receive one of these cards, mail it back to us confirming that you do live at the address with which you registered. If you do not, you will have to verify your address when you go to vote.
- The fourth type of mailing we send is voter registration cards themselves. Once we confirm that someone does in fact live at their address, we send them their registration card. While it is not required to bring them to vote, these cards are a convenient and official way to make registration changes by filling them out and mailing them back to us when a change needs to be made.
- The last type of mailing we send out is notices. These will always be on Alamance County Board of Elections official letterhead, and can be notice of many different situations. Most commonly, these are notices regarding missing or invalid registration information. If you receive a notice printed on Alamance County Board of Elections letterhead, read the notice and act accordingly.
Note, if you receive any mailing that was not intended for you (i.e. it has someone else’s name on it), follow the instructions on our website page regarding mailings. That page also contains information for explaining what we do and do not send voters in the mail, so it is also the page to visit for information if you received something you believe came from us that is not listed above.
No, DMV form voting registration-related sections and questions are always optional. Leaving them blank or ignoring them will never affect your registration in any way, and you will never be required to register to vote if you are not in order to complete any DMV form.
A ‘voting system’ is a set of machines, procedures, materials, etc that collectively encompass a complete means with which to record votes and tally results for an election.
Alamance County uses a specific loadout of ES&S Voting System 22.214.171.124, the most current North Carolina certified system from election machine vendor Election Systems & Software.
It is worth noting that version 126.96.36.199 of this system in its entirety encompasses more devices than are actually used in North Carolina, and more than are used in Alamance County, and only some of the devices contained therein are certified for use in North Carolina.
Alamance County uses a setup consisting of DS200 Precinct Tabulators for tabulating precinct and One Stop Early Voting results, the DS850 Central Count Tabulator for tabulating Absentee by Mail and Provisional results, and the ExpressVote Ballot Marking Device for all voting during One Stop Early Voting as well as an ADA-compliant voting option on Election Day.
Results are only tabulated and generated by the two tabulators. The ExpressVote is a ballot marking device, which takes a blank card and prints a voter’s selections on it to be fed into a tabulator. Results are retrieved from each tabulation device on Election Night and aggregated to generate results totals, which are then sent to the state to be displayed publicly.
If by ‘counted by hand’ one refers to a ballot being looked at by a human being, the votes seen being recorded on paper or on a computer, and those votes being added to the official totals without ever running through a machine, the answer is no.
All ballots, even Absentee by Mail and Provisional ballots (that are valid), are eventually run through a machine. The results that are read from machines are the results. If a ballot never passes through a machine (specifically a tabulator, not the ExpressVote Ballot Marking Device), the votes on that ballot are not part of the results.
This is why provisional ballots that are determined to be valid are run through a machine rather than just being tallied up, and why damaged ballots returned through Absentee by Mail are duplicated rather than tallied up.
For more on ballot duplication, see FAQ question “What is ballot duplication?”.
The ExpressVote Ballot Marking Device serves as an ADA accessible option for visually impaired voters, or any voters with a disability that can lead to difficulties filling out a ballot with a pen and paper difficult, on Election Day. At One Stop Early Voting, the ExpressVote is used for all voters.
The process for using the ExpressVote is as follows:
- A voter feeds a blank sheet of ballot paper into the ExpressVote
- The voter makes contest selections on the ExpressVote’s touch screen
- After the voter has made all selections, they signal the machine to print their ballot, and the ExpressVote creates a ballot for them already filled out with their selections
- Voters then run said ballot through a DS200 Tabulator to cast their vote
The DS200 Tabulator is the machine that tabulates the majority of votes in Alamance County. It takes into its scanner either a full-face paper ballot or an ExpressVote paper ballot, reads it, and depending on what is on the ballot it either counts it and drops it into its attached bin, or denotes any mistakes on the ballot so that they can be corrected and gives the ballot back.
There is always one DS200 Tabulator at each physical location in Alamance County individuals go to vote on Election Day or at One Stop Early Voting. Any ballot not passed into the DS200 Tabulator that is not a provisional ballot or absentee by mail ballot will never be a part of the results, so it is important to never leave a polling place with your ballot. Leaving a polling place with your ballot is also illegal (N.C.G.S 163-273(a)(2)).
The DS850 Central Count Tabulator is a high-speed tabulator housed at secure Board of Elections central locations. This machine is used to tabulate absentee by mail ballots and provisional ballots that are accepted after Election Day. The DS850 is always used for live voting in the presence of a quorum of Board of Elections members.
With this machine, ballots are stacked on a feed tray to be run, then run at high speed and deposited into trays based on ballot disposition. Results from this machine are also read in to be aggregated with other results on Election Night.
To read more about how ballots are handled during this process, see FAQ questions “What happens if I make a mistake on my absentee ballot itself?” and “Can voting machines correctly detect write-in votes? If so, how do the machines count these votes?”
Zero tapes are results tapes with no results on them. Before any instance of a tabulator being used for live voting in North Carolina, it is legally required to print the results on the machine, which should be all zero, signaling that the machine is cleared of any results (08 NCAC 04 .0304(a)).
A totals tape is also a results tape, but a totals tape is the tape printed after a tabulator is done being used for live voting (i.e. when the polls are closed). This tape has the results from that particular machine printed on it.
The former is important for verifying that there were no votes on the machine prior to it being used for voting, and the latter is important for comparison against totals collected on Election Night. This comparison helps ensure that there is no discrepancy between what the machine printed and what was read from it and aggregated into totals.
North Carolina Voting machines can detect the presence of a write-in vote using the bubble next to the line where the name is written in. However, they cannot and do not attempt to read those write-in votes.
Handwriting translation software and systems have gotten much better since their inception but are still far from accurate enough to be used to correctly deduce voter intent from someone’s handwriting. As such, when a write-in occurs on a ballot, the machine just counts it internally as a write-in.
After the election, the write-in votes are tallied the only way they can be, by hand. An image of each write-in vote can be saved, and can be printed from the machine as well at poll close, which is two ways those votes are collected for hand tally (specific method is a county to county choice).
If the write-ins are for a candidate that has successfully petitioned to be considered as such as a write-in, the results are added to the totals and attributed to them, but if this is the case it will be known well before Election Day that there is such a candidate, or such candidates. Write-ins of people who are not a qualified write-in candidate are simply denoted as being for an unqualified candidate in records and not counted for anyone.
One exception is in nonpartisan contests and municipal contests. In those contests, if write-ins are permitted, all written in names are tallied and treated as actual contenders in the contest, however, only write-in candidates that reach a certain threshold of votes (that varies based on a number of factors) are actually included in the final results.
There are plenty of opportunities for the public to engage with the process in each county, from attending L&A Testing prior to an election and attending public Board of Elections meetings to opening a dialogue directly with local elections offices.
Elections administration is a deceptively complicated field procedurally, and one that is very poorly understood by the general population. We always welcome questions regarding the process through telephone/in person during business hours (Mon. to Fri. 8am-5pm) and by email. For our contact information, scroll to the bottom of any page on this website.
In between elections in Alamance County, voting machines are under multiple levels of redundant security measures preventing physical access to their storage locations, as well as video surveillance.
Regular yearly maintenance is performed by vendors to verify that machines are functioning properly mechanically and technically, and prior to each Election county Elections staff performs Logic and Accuracy (L&A) testing on all machines to be used for live voting.
During this testing, test decks fitting specifications for logical robustness are run through all machines to be used for live voting, and ballot marking devices are verified to contain and print all necessary selections. Results are then printed from the tabulators and read in for aggregation just like in a real election.
Results from the printed tapes are compared to totals read in for aggregation, which are both compared to the totals that the test decks were created to add up to. If the totals match across all three places, the machines are certified to be used in the upcoming Election.
The communication between the counties and state is also tested during an event called the ‘Mock Election’, which ensures that results are being correctly communicated to a state level.
Once all but the Mock Election has been completed and the machines are certified, they are all sealed with tamper-proof seals until the moment they are used for live voting. These seals are designed such that they cannot be removed without damaging them, and are placed on machines such that it is impossible to access the machine without damaging the seals.
These seals remain during transport to the devices’ individual polling locations, with the addition of other physical security measures and separate chain of custody practices for transportation personnel, when said personnel differ from those primarily responsible for the machines’ security.
On Election Day or on the first day of One Stop Early Voting, these seals are all checked by on-site staff (Judges on Election Day or Site Coordinators for One Stop Early Voting). Any seal difference or absence that cannot be explained results in a machine being subbed out for a tested backup out of an abundance of caution.
During live voting, if machines at polling places and One Stop sites have been determined to be secure, these machines have all sensitive areas secured with more tamper-proof seals during the actual voting process. Any seal attached is recorded, and any seal removed is checked.
For One Stop Early Voting machines, they are sealed and locked into their site each night until voting resumes the next day. No one has access to the keys to One Stop voting enclosures during the One Stop Early Voting period except for a handful of trusted, known, and oathbound election officials and administrators who need such access in order to perform their duties. Each morning, seals from the night before are checked, and any unexplained absence or difference results in machine replacement.
A simple way to explain this process is that any time after L&A Testing, the machines are locked and sealed with recorded tamper-proof seals, with the locations of the seals contingent upon whether or not the machine is in active use. This practice remains in place until after the machines’ final return home post-election.
Core proof of voting machines not being tampered with during the elections process mostly comes from paper ballot record-based auditing and verification of totals post-election. After each election, the paper ballots containing voters’ actual votes are retained for a minimum of 22 months, so that any discrepancies have adequate time to be discovered and, if necessary, a full hand-eye recount can be conducted. In special cases, this minimum can be extended by court order and many county offices keep physical records for longer than the minimum time frame.
On Election Night, totals from each individual precinct machine as well as totals from One Stop Early Voting machines and the DS850 Central Count Tabulator are read in to be aggregated. These totals are immediately compared individually to their corresponding paper tapes, just like during L&A Testing.
These totals are also compared against known numbers of issued and returned ballots from One Stop Early Voting and Absentee by Mail, and ATV (Authorization to Vote) form numbers from each precinct polling place, respectively. This is to ensure that each county has the same number of people recorded as having voted as they have ballots recorded as having passed through machines, because those two counts are kept separate.
Also, in the days immediately after each election something called the ‘Sample Audit’ is performed. During this audit, two precinct groupings of results are randomly selected at the state level to have all their paper ballots from each voting method source pulled and counted by hand, then compared against the results the machines generated. This process provides a crucial element of unpredictability that would be unavoidable for anyone attempting to interfere with machine behavior ahead of the Election.
If major inconsistencies remain after these processes, a reexamination of the Election in question, either statewide or in part, including for individual contests, can be ordered by the State Board or the courts. However, if this process is initiated by those outside the system (political parties, candidate representatives, private citizens, or organizations comprised of private citizens) there are specific legal methods by which this must be done.
Currently the only way to become involved in voting machine security in Alamance County (and in the state in general) is to put an application in as a poll worker and work one’s way up to Judge. Judges, particularly Chief Judges, are afforded some voting equipment chain of custody related responsibilities if protecting the integrity of voting equipment is one’s passion.
It is important to keep in mind that those positions involve a lot of trust that must be earned and/or vouched for, and there is no wiggle room for acting outside of statutory responsibilities. Any decision in such a position to explore machine security or functionality outside of the bounds of one’s responsibilities could result in criminal charges.
The public may also attend L&A Testing for each election, and Board of Elections meetings. There is no legal basis for any involvement of the public in voting machine security and procedures aside from the above.
The public is prohibited from recording machine opening and closing procedures. Any recording taken within a voting enclosure must be by media approved by the Chief Judge/Site Coordinator or pre-approved by office staff and must consist solely of general panoramic shots. If any voters are present during media recording, said voters’ individual permissions must also be obtained in order to film at all.
For legal references, see FAQ question “Can I request a copy of a machine zero or totals tape, or create one myself through a photograph or photocopy?”.
L&A Testing is also not permitted to be recorded by policy in Alamance County, but attendance by request is permitted. For more information on L&A Testing and when it is conducted, contact our office at the number listed in our contact information.
Board of Elections meetings are already recorded by Board of Elections staff, and are all available on our Youtube channel. Members of the public present for a Board of Elections meeting will not be permitted to make their own recordings.
You may request a copy of both, though circumstances vary for each.
With a zero tape, you may NOT create any copy or request one until after Election Day. The zero tape must remain in the custody of and secured by election officials throughout the voting process. The public may view it at the polling place while observing the process by the means by which this viewing occurs is entirely up to the Chief Judge (or Site Coordinators at One Stop Early Voting). any action perceived as impeding or interfering with the process may be answered with removal from the voting enclosure by law enforcement if necessary.
With a totals tape, you may request a copy as soon as it is available, although when that copy is provided is entirely up to the Chief Judge or office staff, depending on where it is requested. Often a copy is posted physically at the polling place itself, and a picture can be taken of that copy but NOT of any accompanying closing procedures.
Note that on-site totals tapes restrictions and procedures do not apply to One Stop Early Voting as the machines used there are not actually closed until Election Day, hence there is no totals tape until then.