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Voter Aid and Accessibility


North Carolina law allows for any voter to receive assistance in entering or exiting a voting booth as well as preparing a ballot, as long as the person providing assistance is a member of the voter's immediate family. N.C. law defines an immediate family member as one of the following: spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, child, grandchild, mother- or father-in-law, son- or daughter-in-law, stepparent or stepchild.

The law further stipulates that some voters can receive aid from a wider range of helpers. If a voter satisfies any of the conditions below, they are eligible to receive help from any person of their choice, with the exception of the voter's employer or union representative, or an agent thereof. Those are:

  • a voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to enter the voting booth without assistance 
  • a voter who, on account of physical disability, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance
  • a voter who, on account of illiteracy, is unable to mark a ballot without assistance 
  • a voter who, on account of blindness, is unable to enter the voting booth or mark a ballot without assistance

Any voter who qualifies for and requests assistance while voting at a One-Stop (early) voting site is entitled to the same assistance as voters who vote on Election Day.

 

There is no prohibition against a person assisting multiple voters if those voters are qualified for assistance.
 

 

Accessible Polling Places


Polling sites are required to be accessible to all voters. Voters with disabilities or older voters may require removal of barriers at polling places or registration sites in order to make the voting program accessible to them. Many of the current accessibility stipulations were codified in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. You can read more about how North Carolina polling places comply with HAVA law here.

In our continuing effort to make and keep all polling places in the state accessible to all voters, the State Board of Elections has surveyed each polling place in order to determine the accessibility needs of every location. The Board then made grants to the local county boards of election to improve sites where accessibility was not up to legal standards. Further, each location has been photographed in order to better inform voters of accessible pathways, parking and entrances. Those photographs can be seen via our polling place search.

If you are aware of any problems or potential problems with accessibility, please contact the county board of elections office in the respective county.

 

In addition to making polling places accessible to voters, the State Board of Elections strives to provide voters with options, should they be unable to make it inside the polling place to vote.

Curbside voting is offered at each polling location where a voter can vote while in a vehicle outside the polling location. This includes all one-stop (early voting) sites. A curbside voter has the same rights to assistance as any other voter. Information on the particulars of curbside voting at a specific polling place or early voting site can be obtained from the site's respective county board of elections.

Voting a mail-in absentee ballot from home is another option. For more information on how to request, fill out or submit an absentee ballot, visit our absentee voting page.
 

Accessible Voting Equipment


Both federal law and state requirements mandate that voting systems be equipped for voters with disabilities, which allows such voters to have the same opportunity for access and participation as any other voter. It is required that every precinct have at least one accessible voting machine available for use by voters with special needs. This includes all one-stop absentee (early voting) sites.

Some counties utilize Direct Record Electronic (DRE) touchscreen voting machines, which offer audio instructions for the voting process as well as ballot narration. These touchscreen machines will also produce an oral report to the voter of the choices selected prior to the voter casting the ballot, so that the voter can ensure his/her choices are being recorded accurately.

Counties that utilize paper ballots will have AutoMARK marking devices on hand that will aid the voter in marking his/her ballot. The AutoMark has a feature that will greatly magnify the ballot for voters that have limited visual impairment. It is also capable of offering audio instructions and ballot narration, just like the DRE machines. It also produces an oral report to the voter as the choices selected prior to the voter finishing marking the ballot. At the end of the process, the machine will spit out the voter's paper ballot that can then be cast.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections is committed to making voting as accessible as possible for all citizens of North Carolina, regardless of circumstance. Please let us know how we can improve such accessibility by calling us at (866) 522-4723 (toll free) or (919) 814-0700. You may also e-mail us at [email protected].
 

 

Curbside Voting


In any election, if any voter is able to travel to the voting place, but because of age or physical disability and physical barriers encountered at the voting place is unable to enter the voting enclosure to vote in person without physical assistance, that voter will be allowed to vote in the vehicle conveying that voter.
 
Curbside voting is available at all North Carolina voting sites during the one-stop absentee voting period and on election day. Voting sites will have signage indicating curbside voting and will also have a curbside alert system. An election official will come to the vehicle to obtain the voter’s name and address. Before a ballot is issued to a curbside voter, the voter must swear an oath affirming his or her qualification to use curbside voting.
 

Multipartisan Assistance Teams (MATs)


Providing help with mail-in absentee voting at facilities

In North Carolina, any registered voter can vote by mail-in absentee ballot. Although it is not necessary to have a reason to vote by this method, some voters find it necessary to vote by mail-in absentee ballot because they are elderly, limited in their mobility, or have a disability. This group of voters includes persons living at facilities such as nursing homes. Oftentimes, these voters require assistance in completing the forms or marking the ballot (also, casting a mail-in absentee ballot requires witness signatures from either two witnesses or a Notary Public). The first preference, according to the law, is for the voter to receive assistance from a near relative or guardian. But some voters, particularly voters who live in facilities, may not have a near relative or guardian available to provide that assistance. It is important to know that employees of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or rest homes are prohibited by law from providing assistance with absentee voting. So, voters who live in facilities such as nursing homes or rest homes face special challenges in casting a mail-in absentee ballot. But here’s the good news: In every county, an impartial team called a “Multipartisan Assistance Team” is available to visit facilities such as nursing homes in order to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting.

What is a “Multipartisan Assistance Team”?

A Multipartisan Assistance Team, or “MAT,” is a group of persons who has been appointed by the local County Board of Elections office to provide assistance with mail-in absentee voting to voters living at facilities such as nursing homes. The makeup of the Team includes, at minimum, persons whose voter registration is affiliated with two different political parties (or, in the alternative, persons who were unanimously appointed by a bipartisan County Board of Elections). So, if you request help from a MAT, you should receive impartial, professional assistance. Their job is to help you vote, but your voting choices will remain confidential.

What does a Multipartisan Assistance Team do?

MATs can assist in requesting or casting a mail-in absentee ballot.

  • Requesting a mail-in absentee ballot: To receive an absentee ballot by mail, a request must be made on the official Absentee Ballot Request Form. MATs can provide this form and help you fill it out if necessary. The form is then delivered back to the County Board of Elections office, and the ballot will be mailed to you in the following days.
  • Casting a mail-in absentee ballot: If you’ve requested a mail-in absentee ballot, it will arrive in the mail, along with a special return envelope. On the back of the return envelope, you must enter some information and sign your name. It is also required that two witnesses (or a Notary Public) are present while you mark your absentee ballot, and those witnesses sign on the return envelope as well. MATs can help with marking the ballot, completing the required information on the return envelope, and serving as witnesses to the act of voting.
How do I request help from a MAT?

Contact the activity coordinator of your facility. If you do not know who the activity coordinator is, or if there is no activity coordinator, talk to staff or management at your facility. Ideally, the local elections office can schedule a MAT visit to help several voters in one visit, so it is preferable that the visit is arranged by the facility.

If you would like to request an absentee ballot by mail, you can download that form here. The form includes instructions. It can be mailed, faxed or delivered to the local County Board of Elections office. To find contact information for your local County Board of Elections office, click here.

The Absentee Ballot Request Form includes a checkbox to request assistance from a MAT for casting a mail-in absentee ballot. If you check that box, someone from the County Board of Elections will be in contact about arranging a visit.

I work at a facility such as a nursing home. How do I arrange a visit by a MAT?

Click here for an informational document about MATs and assistance allowed at facilities

First, it is extremely important to be aware of the law that prohibits employees of such facilities from providing assistance with mail-in absentee voting. In North Carolina, it is a Class I felony "[f}or any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person, other than the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to (i) make a written request pursuant to G.S. 163A-1308 or (ii) sign an application or certificate as a witness, on behalf of a registered voter, who is a patient in any hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in this State or for any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person other than the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to mark the voter's absentee ballot or assist such a voter in marking an absentee ballot. [...]" N.C.G.S. § 163A-1298(a)(4).

It is most helpful if the facility informs residents about MATs and determines a time when the most voters who need help will be available. That way, the MAT can help the maximum number of voters during the visit. It is also important, if possible, to be familiar whether or not some voters have already received assistance in voting from family members (or if a family member plans to drive the resident to vote in person), particularly if the voter has memory difficulties.

To inquire about scheduling a MAT visit, contact your local County Board of Elections office. Contact information for your local office can be found here.