How to Get An Absentee Ballot

Cary, NC — Due to the uncertainty and risks associated with the coronavirus, North Carolina is seeing a surge of mail-in ballot requests as we near the 2020 General Election.

Luckily, for North Carolinians not wanting to worry about lines and high contact areas at the polls, everyone has the option to vote by mail without needing an excuse. If on the fence about voting by mail or in person, the good news is that a voter can always change their mind and vote in person if they like, even after receiving an absentee ballot. The key is to not illegally vote using both methods.

For those who are registered to vote and considering this method, here’s the rundown on voting absentee this November.

Getting the Ballot

For those accustomed to in-person voting whether it’s early or day-of, expect a slower process with a few additional steps if switching to absentee this year.

The process entails:

  • Downloading and printing a State Absentee Ballot Request Form
  • Sending/delivering the form to your county board of elections
  • Receiving and  filling out the ballot with a witness present who can sign it
  • Sending/delivering the ballot in by a certain deadline

Depending on if a person chooses to deliver their request form and ballot in person, by mail, email or fax, this process can require a computer, printer, a second person and a few stamps for postage.

The Request Form

For Cary voters, you will need to fill out the ballot request form and send it to your respective county’s Board of Elections — Wake or Chatham.

The form will ask for basic name, date of birth and address information in addition to a proof of identity in the form of a person’s NC driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of their social security number.


October 9, 2020 – To Register

To vote absentee or on Election Day in person, October 9, 2020, is the deadline to be registered in your county. (You can register after this online is you register and vote same day during the early voting period (Oct. 15-31).

October 27, 2020 – To Request Absentee Ballot

Voters can send in their ballot request anytime from now until 5 PM on October 27, 2020, exactly one week prior to Election Day. The forms can be delivered to your county board of elections in person, by fax, email or mail.

November 3, 2020 – To Cast Vote

Once completed, signed by a witness and placed in it’s own unique return envelope, the ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day. All ballots delivered no later than 3 days after election day will be counted.

For more information on voting absentee in NC, here are a few helpful state and local resources.

Story by Ashley Kairis. Request form photo by Lindsey Chester, flags photo by Hal Goodtree and mailbox photo by Jerome Le Bloch.

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9 replies
  1. Lisa Allyn Winston
    Lisa Allyn Winston says:

    Is it possible to hand-carry a mail in ballot and drop it off to a lockbox? If yes, please email the procedure including the location of the lock box.

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      Mail-in ballots may only be hand-delivered to a single location in Wake County – the Board of Elections operations office

      May I hand-deliver my voted absentee ballot to an Election Day polling place?
      No. Hand-delivered absentee ballots may be submitted to the Board of Elections office and must be received by the 5 p.m. deadline on or before Election Day.
      Board of Elections Operations Center
      1200 N. New Hope Rd.
      Raleigh, NC 27610

  2. CP
    CP says:

    “All ballots delivered no later than 3 days after election day will be counted.”

    Does this mean that if the recently hobbled USPS doesn’t get the ballot there on time, *even* if postmarked by the correct deadline, that it will not be counted?

    • Mark Neill
      Mark Neill says:

      Not necessarily. The wording doesn’t explicitly say what happens to ballots received after 3 days.

      By 3 days after the election, initial returns and results have to be reported, by law. If by the time those numbers arrive there is no question who the winner is (e.e., the winner is ahead by thousands of votes), then the Board of Elections MAY not physically tally those ballots, because their vote wouldn’t alter the final outcome of the election.

      Is it sorta crappy that given votes might not count? Sure. But the BOE can’t hold on forever waiting for every ballot that might be in flight, and if the math says that 100 late mail-in ballots aren’t going to alter an election that’s currently leading by thousands of votes, then they can still call the election, and those votes don’t need to be processed.

      • CP
        CP says:

        I don’t have a problem in the situation where the math wouldn’t make a difference. I just hope they have good traffic management around the Wake Co. BOE for those of us who want to vote, don’t want to risk our health to do it, and no longer trust the leadership at the USPS (note that I didn’t say “USPS postal workers” because they didn’t make that decision)

  3. Mark Barton
    Mark Barton says:

    Vote by mail early to avoid any worries about USPS delays. Absentee ballots will be mailed out starting Sept. 4th.

  4. George McDowell
    George McDowell says:

    I heard on the radio that some mail-in ballots will be bar-coded so that voters can track their progress, and be able to tell if they are received and tallied. Is this true for North Carolina? — Thanks.

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