2020 Election Action Series: #1 How to Vote

  1. General Voting Tips
  2. Voter Registration
  3. Absentee Voting (also known as Mail-in Voting or Vote by Mail)
  4. Early Voting
  5. Voting on Election Day

General Voting Tips:

  • If you haven’t already, register to vote! 
  • Check your voter registration and print your sample ballot here.
  • Familiarize yourself with the candidates.
  • Make your plan to vote – and vote early if you can!
  • Spread the word about voting and help others exercise their voting rights.
  • Know important voting and registration deadlines.
  • Vote one time. Voting twice is illegal.
  • Forsyth County Board of Election information:
    • 201 N. Chestnut Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101; 336.703.2800, fcvotes.com

Voter Registration:

Who is eligible to vote in NC?

US Citizens who turn 18 on or before November 3, 2020 (General Election Day) and have lived in NC for at least 30 days are eligible to vote. In NC, if you are convicted of a felony, you can vote as long as you have finished the terms of the sentence, including probation and parole, and re-registered to vote. A recent court ruling may allow voting for people in NC who remain on probation or parole solely for failing to pay court costs and fees.

How do you register to vote?

Online Registration: People who already have a state driver’s license or other DMV-issued ID can register to vote online. To register online, you will need your social security number AND your NC Drivers License or DMV ID number. If you don’t have one of those numbers, you can begin the form online, and you will be mailed a registration form to sign and return. The deadline to register online is Friday, October 9.  

Registration by Mail: Access the voter registration form and other info at the Forsyth County Board of Elections page. Democracy NC has put together tips in English and Spanish for completing applications to help make sure you are completing your form correctly. If you are registering by mail, you must have your form postmarked by October 9. You can also drop off the form to the Forsyth County Board of Elections office in person by October 9. You can register to vote and request an absentee mail-in ballot at the same time.

One Stop Early Voting: If you miss the October 9 deadline, you can register to vote and vote at the same time at any of the early voting sites during the early voting period (October 15 – October 31). You will need to bring proof of residency with your name and address. Documentation can include any of the following: 1) a North Carolina driver’s license, 2) government-issued ID that includes your current name and address, 3) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing your your name and address  4) a current college/university photo identification card paired with proof of living on or near campus.

How do you update your registration form? 

You will need to update your voter registration if you have legally changed your name or if you have moved more than 30 days before the election, even if you have moved within the same city or county. Use the voter registration form OR update your address when you vote during early voting. It’s best to update your voter registration as soon as possible. The Board of Elections site provides info and FAQs about updating your registration due to a move

Special information for college students:

If you are a college student, you can register and vote using your home address, which means you will be voting in your hometown (in-person or by absentee mail-in ballot). Or, you can use your school address as your home address and register and vote in your new town. You can only vote in one place. 


Absentee Mail-in Voting:

What is absentee mail-in voting?

Absentee mail-in voting is an alternative to casting your vote in person. Any registered voter in North Carolina may vote using an absentee mail-in ballot without a specific reason for doing so. You may see or hear the terms absentee voting, mail-in voting, or vote by mail. In North Carolina, these are all the same. 

Can I still vote in person if I request an absentee mail-in ballot? 

Yes! Many people are choosing to request an absentee mail-in ballot this year to have the OPTION of voting by mail. If you request an absentee mail-in ballot, you can still choose to vote in person as long as you have not completed and returned your mail-in ballot. Vote one time, in person OR by absentee mail-in ballot, and you will be good to go! If someone has voted using an absentee mail-in ballot and then shows up to vote in person, the check-in system will alert the poll worker that the person has already voted.

Requesting your absentee mail-in ballot

  • You can request your absentee mail-in ballot online.
  • If you prefer to fill out a physical form, you can access an English version here and a Spanish version here.
  • You can request a ballot for a near relative (spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent or stepchild). 
  • The last day to request an absentee mail-in ballot is October 27, at 5 pm. 
  • The Board of Elections began mailing absentee mail-in ballots on September 4. After September 4, if you request a ballot and do not receive it within 7 to 10 days, contact Forsyth County Board of Elections at 336.703.2800.

Completing and returning your request form

  • When completing your request form, fill out all required sections. 
  • It is a good idea to include your email address and phone number so that the Board of Elections can contact you if they have a question or need additional information. Remember to sign and date your form. 
  • If you are using the online request form, you will be signing and submitting the form electronically. If you have included your email address, you will receive an email saying that your form has been submitted successfully. 
  • If you are completing a physical form, the form should be mailed or hand delivered to the Forsyth County Board of Elections at 201 N. Chestnut Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101 or scanned and emailed to absentee@forsyth.cc 

Completing your absentee mail-in ballot:

  • You will receive from the Forsyth County Board of Elections: 1) your absentee mail-in ballot, 2) a return envelope with a certificate statement and 3) an instruction sheet. 
  • You must have one witness sign your completed ballot. Anyone age 18 or older may serve as a witness with a few specific exceptions. Candidates may not witness for voters (unless they are a near relative) and employees of hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living facilities may not witness for patients or residents.
  • After sealing your envelope, you must sign the back of your envelope and have your witness print their name and address and sign the back of your envelope.

Returning your absentee mail-in ballot:

  • You may return your ballot by mail or in-person at the Forsyth County Board of Elections or at an Early Voting site during the early voting period.
  • If you are returning your ballot by mail, mail it as soon as possible and AT LEAST by October 15, which is two and a half weeks before Election Day. After that date, it is recommended that you hand-deliver your ballot (see below). It is also recommended that you get your envelope postmarked (hand-stamped). You can do that by going into the post office and making that request. Mailing a ballot requires one ($.55) stamp or a Forever stamp. Your ballot will be counted as long as it is received within three days of the General Election (November 6) and the envelope is postmarked by November 3. 
  • If you are returning your ballot in person to the Forsyth County Board of Elections or to an Early Voting site, you will have to go into the building, as NC requires an official to record that you are returning your ballot. At Early Voting sites, there will be signs directing you to the appropriate place to take your ballot. You will not have to stand in general voting lines. Note: you cannot return absentee mail-in ballots at curbside voting.
  • You may return a completed ballot of your near relative. Relatives will be asked to sign an affidavit attesting to their relationship to the voter.
  • The last date to return an absentee ballot in-person is November 3 by 5 pm, at the Forsyth County Board of Elections. 

Tracking your ballot: 

  • You will be able to track your ballot as it travels through the mail system using Ballot Trax. Information on how to do this will be included with your ballot and envelope.
  • Once your ballot arrives at your local Board of Elections, you can track it directly here. Two data points will be entered within your voter record: one when your ballot is received and another when it has been marked as either “accepted” or “rejected”.
  • The Forsyth County Board of Elections will contact you if there are any problems with your absentee mail-in ballot. Voters are encouraged to return their absentee mail-in ballot as early as possible to ensure time remains to correct any issues. If an issue arises and a voter is unable to successfully cast an absentee mail-in ballot, that voter may still vote during the in-person Early Voting period or on Election Day.

Additional absentee mail-in voting resources:


Early Voting: 

  • Access a one-page Early Voting handout with dates, times and locations.
  • The Early Voting period lasts for 17 days from October 15 to October 31. 
  • During Early Voting you can vote at any of the 17 Early Voting sites (and you can register to vote at the same time). 
  • Early Voting hours include weekdays from 8 am to 7:30 pm and weekends (October 17 & 18, October 24 & 25) from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and 1 pm to 5 pm on Sundays. On the last day of early voting, Saturday, October 31, the hours are from 8 am to 3 pm. 
  • Curbside voting is available during Early Voting. Anyone wishing to vote curbside must have a medical condition that prevents them from being able to vote in-person and will be asked to sign an affidavit. Fear of COVID-19 is not an eligible reason to vote curbside. A driver or passenger(s) in the car of the person voting curbside are not eligible to vote curbside themselves.   

Voting on Election Day:

  • General Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020
  • Polls are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm.
  • If you choose to vote on General Election Day, you must vote at your designated precinct location. Check your precinct. If you arrive at the wrong precinct location and cannot get to your designated location, the Chief Judge must allow you to vote a provisional ballot.
  • Curbside voting is available during Election Day Voting. Anyone wishing to vote curbside must have a medical condition that prevents them from being able to vote in-person and will be asked to sign an affidavit. Fear of COVID-19 is not an eligible reason to vote curbside. A driver or passenger(s) in the car of the person voting curbside are not eligible to vote curbside themselves.   
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