With the 2020 election coming up in just 50 days, understanding all the deadlines, guidelines and rules surrounding the election is important. Many college students may be first-time voters in this election, and the rules aren’t always clear. Here’s what you need to know before Nov. 3, Election Day, arrives.
If you’re going to be a first-time voter in November, make sure you register to vote. North Carolina requires voters to register 25 days before the election, which means by Oct. 9, 2020. You will need to print out the voter registration application and mail the form to your county board of elections. Voters can also register through the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), applications must be received by the DMV by Oct. 9 to be considered on time. If you are planning on voting early at a one-stop early voting location, you can also register to vote there. The early voting period in NC begins Oct. 15 and ends Oct. 31. While on Election Day you must cast your ballot at your precinct, during the early voting period you can vote at any location within your county. For out-of-county students who wish to re-register in Wake County, you can also do this at an early voting location. For Meredith students, the nearest early voting location is NC State’s Talley Student Center.
Because of concerns surrounding crowded voting locations and COVID-19, more people than ever may be planning to vote via absentee ballot this year. In North Carolina, any registered voter can request an absentee ballot so that they can vote by mail; the deadline to request one is Oct. 27, and you can do so online via the North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Portal. You must send in your absentee ballot so that it is postmarked on or before Nov. 3, but it must be received by Nov. 6. Make sure that you also have a witness to sign your absentee ballot; if that part or any other section of your ballot is incorrect, you will be notified and can fix your ballot as long as there is enough time to do so. With the recent delays that have been reported in the U.S. Postal Service, it is a good idea to mail in your absentee ballot several weeks early to ensure that it is counted. Other options to ensure that your absentee ballot is counted include dropping it off at your county board of elections office by 5 p.m. on Election Day or at any early voting location in your county.
Finally, if you’re not early voting or sending in an absentee ballot, remember to vote on Nov. 3. Election Day has not yet been made a national holiday, so if you know you won’t have time that Tuesday to vote, try to make plans to mail in your ballot or early vote. The United States’ democracy is based on citizen participation, and while this election is hotly contested and may be a tough decision for many people, exercising your right to vote will ensure that your future in this country is not completely out of your hands. While it’s sometimes hard to believe that any individual person’s vote really makes a difference, all those votes add up. In 2016, around 100 million people didn’t vote in America — that’s 43% of eligible voters, and enough to completely change the outcome of an election.
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief