FAQ: Voter Registration

Explore the tabs to find answers to questions about voter registration applications, updates, list maintenance, and privacy. If you need to replace a missing or damaged voter registration card, please contact your county board of elections.

Voter Registration Applications

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The regular voter registration deadline in North Carolina is 25 days before an election. For details, see Voter Registration Deadlines.

Do you need to register to vote or update your existing registration after the regular deadline? Eligible individuals may do so ahead of Election Day during the early voting period. See Register in Person During Early Voting.

You may fax or email your voter registration application to update your name, address, or party affiliation. However, if the application is for a new registration, your county board of elections must receive your original, wet ink signature on your completed registration application, postmarked by the voter registration deadline and received no later than 20 days before a primary or election. Acceptance of application forms (N.C.G.S. § 163-82.6)

Note: Eligible individuals who are N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) customers may submit a voter registration application online. This process does not require a wet ink signature. Find more information at Complete Your Registration Online Through the DMV.

No. Only the voter may sign their voter registration application. You are not permitted to sign anyone else’s voter registration application, even if you have power of attorney for the person.

Yes. If you are an unaffiliated voter, you may participate in the primary of any recognized political party, or you may request a nonpartisan ballot. However, you may vote in only one party’s primary.

Participating in a partisan primary will not affect your status as an unaffiliated voter. If you request a nonpartisan ballot, you will only vote for those contests that are nonpartisan (i.e. referenda, etc.).

Voter registration materials and instructions are currently available in English and Spanish. You may download the voter registration application at Voter Tools and Forms.

The residency rules for voting are found in Residence defined for registration and voting (N.C.G.S. § 163-57). The key points are:

  • When registering to vote, the voter should use their “fixed” habitation as their residence, the place where “whenever that person is absent, that person has the intention of returning.”
  • A voter who relocates temporarily with the intention of returning to their home will maintain their home residence. But if a voter intends to permanently move, that voter loses the residency at the previous address.
  • You cannot claim two residences for voting purposes.
  • Merely owning property or paying taxes somewhere does not establish residency for voting purposes. What matters is where the person’s fixed habitation is.
  • To vote in an election, North Carolina law requires a voter to have established the residency they are claiming at least 30 days before the date of the election. The voter registration application requires a voter to attest to having been a resident for this long prior to an election. If a person moves within 30 days of an election, they should vote based on the residence they are moving from.

Updating Your Voter Registration

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When you move within your county, you should complete an in-county change of address. You may make changes to your voter registration using one of the following methods:

  • On your voter registration card
  • On an Address Confirmation Notice 
  • By signed letter to your county board of elections
  • On the N.C. voter registration application, or the National Mail Voter Registration Form
  • On the Federal Postcard Application or Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (military and overseas voters only)
  • At an early voting site (in person during early voting)
  • On Election Day (recommend updating your address before Election Day)
  • On the N.C. absentee ballot request form if you plan on voting by mail
  • On the online voter registration application available to DMV customers
  • At the DMV or any other NVRA voter registration agency

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If you move during a time close to an election, the following rules apply:

  • If you moved more than 30 days before the election, you must update your registration with your new address (or if applicable, register to vote in your new county of residence) no later than 25 days before the election. You may also update your address using same-day registration during the in-person early voting period.
  • If you don’t update your voter registration by Election Day, you may still vote at your new polling location, as long as your move is within the same county. Since your move was unreported, you may be asked to vote a provisional ballot. You can also vote provisionally at your old polling place, but you may not receive a ballot with all the contests you are eligible to vote in. You can also vote at a central transfer precinct; contact your county board of elections for more information about this option.
  • If you moved fewer than 30 days before the election, you must vote in your prior polling place.

Please be sure to notify the board of any changes to your mailing address, if different from your residential address. The board may need to contact you by mail to inform you of changes to your polling place and/or voting districts.

If you need to make other changes to your voter record (name change, party affiliation change, etc.), you may use a voter registration application. For changes other than party affiliation, you may use same-day registration at an early voting site. For a primary election, you may not change your party affiliation at an early voting site. You may change your party affiliation during early voting for a general election, but the change would not take place until after canvass.

Once you make changes to your voter registration record, allow two weeks for the delivery of your new voter registration card. Read the information carefully and note any changes or mistakes on the card. A voter registration card is for your use only; you do not need the card to vote. You can also check your information on the Voter Search.

Voter Registration List Maintenance and Privacy

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Voter registration records are not “purged” simply due to non-voting. Voters are removed from the voter rolls following a biennial list maintenance process mandated by federal and state law. If a county board of elections has not had any contact with a voter for a period of two federal election cycles, then the voter will be sent a forwardable address confirmation mailing. The voter will be required to return the confirmation mailing within 30 days of the mailing. If the confirmation mailing is not returned by the voter within that time, or the mailing is returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable, then the voter’s record will be marked inactive in the voter registration database.

Inactive voters are still registered voters. If an inactive voter presents to vote, the person will be asked to verify their address and update it if necessary. If a county board of elections has no contact (presenting to vote counts as contact) with the voter for two more federal election cycles, then the voter will be removed from the county’s voter rolls and would need to re-register to vote. List maintenance (N.C.G.S § 163-82.14).

In North Carolina, county boards of elections follow a comprehensive list maintenance schedule to remove names of individuals who are no longer eligible to be registered due to death, felony conviction, moving from the county or state, or lack of voter contact.

To learn more about this process, see our press release, County Boards of Elections Begin Regular Voter List Maintenance Processes.

Pursuant to Official record of voter registration (N.C.G.S. § 163-82.10) and Public records (Chapter 132 of the General Statutes), the State Board of Elections is required to make most voter information available to the public. All voter registration information is public record except for full or partial social security numbers, dates of birth, driver license numbers, the identity of the public agency at which the voter registered under Voter registration at other public agencies (N.C.G.S. § 163-82.20), and the email address of a military-overseas voter. Additionally, your signature may only be viewed by the public and cannot be copied or traced.

Note: Third parties often access and use publicly available voter registration data for various purposes, and the agency has no authority to control their use of publicly available information.

According to N.C.G.S. § 163-82.10(e), a voter’s address will be kept confidential if a registered voter submits to the county board of elections either 1) a copy of a 50B protective order; 2) a restraining order; or 3) a current and valid Address Confidentiality Program authorization card issued according to the provisions of Address Confidentiality Program (Chapter 15C of the General Statutes), along with a signed statement that the voter has good reason to believe that the physical safety of the voter or a member of the voter’s family residing with the voter would be jeopardized if the voter’s address was open to public inspection. To find out whether you are eligible to have your information withheld from the public under the Address Confidentiality program, please visit Address Confidentiality | NCDOJ.

In North Carolina, a series of laws and processes work together to try to ensure that only qualified U.S. citizens cast ballots in elections. They include the following:

  • The first question on the N.C. voter registration application, as required by state and federal law, includes the following language: “Are you a citizen of the United States of America? If you checked ‘No’ in response to this citizenship question, do not submit this form. You are not qualified to vote.”
  • Individuals registering to vote must sign the application, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens. The language above the signature box states: “Fraudulently or falsely completing this form is a Class I felony under Chapter 163 of the N.C. General Statutes.”
  • Specifically, Certain acts declared felonies (N.C.G.S. § 163-275(13)) makes it a felony to register to vote or vote if a person is not a U.S. citizen.
  • Section 1 of the “Application Instructions” accompanying the North Carolina Voter Registration Application include language specifying that the applicant “must be a citizen of the United States.” The voter registration application and instructions are available in English and Spanish.
  • Every voter, whether they vote in person or mail an absentee ballot, must sign an application to vote on which they certify that they are U.S. citizens. Fraudulently or falsely completing that application is a Class I felony.
  • Each voting site must include posters in English and Spanish that include the language: “By signing your voter form today, you certify: You are a U.S. citizen. Non-citizens, including lawful permanent residents (‘green card’ holders), are not eligible to vote.”
  • Any registered voter of a county may challenge the right of any person to register in the same county if that person has a valid basis to believe the registrant is not a U.S. citizen. Please see the Voter Challenge Procedures Guide (PDF) for additional information.
  • The State Board of Elections’ website, ncsbe.gov, which can be translated into 15 languages other than English using the “Select Language” button on the website, contains information about voting eligibility in multiple places.

As for voter registration processes, here’s a VR application: NC Voter Registration Application in English (fillable PDF). You will see that registrants must provide their date of birth and their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. These numbers are validated against data from the Division of Motor Vehicles and/or the Social Security Administration.

There is no comprehensive, accurate, or up-to-date database of U.S. citizens that election administrators could use for verification purposes. However, if election officials learn that a non-U.S. citizen registers and/or votes in an election, the Investigations Division of the State Board of Elections will conduct an investigation. If warranted by the evidence, the State Board will forward that investigation to prosecutors for review and possible prosecution at the prosecutor’s discretion. Typically, there are very few, if any, cases of noncitizen registration or voting referred for prosecution statewide each year, which demonstrates how infrequent it is for noncitizens to register or vote.