FAQ: Voting By Mail
On this page, find answers to your questions about requesting, marking, and returning your absentee ballot, as well as absentee voting security. For details about the 2023 municipal elections, visit Upcoming Election. For an overview of absentee-by-mail voting, see Vote By Mail.
Note: If you are a blind or visually impaired registered voter in North Carolina, you can request, complete, and return an accessible absentee ballot online through a system that is compatible with screen readers and that allows for a digital or typed signature. Find detailed instructions at Accessible Absentee Voting.
Requesting Your Ballot
No. Any registered voter in North Carolina may vote an absentee ballot by mail. Note: Some municipalities do not allow absentee voting in their municipal elections. To find out if your municipality allows absentee and early voting, see the Local Voter Tool.
Registered voters in North Carolina must request an absentee ballot online at the N.C. Absentee Ballot Portal or on paper with the 2023 N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form in English (fillable PDF). Submit the completed form to your county board of elections in person or by mail via the U.S. Postal Service, DHL, FedEx, or UPS.
You may not request an absentee ballot with a request form for a prior election year.
No. State law does not permit voters to fax or email absentee ballot requests.
You can request an absentee ballot for the 2023 municipal elections (if your municipality allows absentee voting) from now until the request deadline. The 2023 deadlines for absentee ballot requests to be received by your county board of elections are as follows:
- 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 for the Sept. 12 partisan primaries (Charlotte, Sanford, if necessary)
- 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3 for the Oct. 10 municipal elections (many municipalities)
- 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31 for the Nov. 7 municipal elections (many municipalities)
If you submit the request form by mail, please allow enough time for your request to be received by the deadline. The State Board encourages voters to request their absentee ballot as early as possible to ensure enough time to complete and return the ballot. Requests received after the deadline will not be processed.
County boards of elections must begin mailing absentee ballots to eligible voters who submitted an absentee ballot request form by:
- August 11, 2023, for municipalities with September partisan primaries
- Sept. 8, 2023, for municipalities with October elections
- Oct. 6, 2023, for municipalities with November elections
After that date, you should receive your absentee ballot within about a week of submitting your request, if the request was received before the deadline.
Track your absentee-by-mail ballot through the mail: After you request your absentee ballot, you can track its status from when it is first sent to you until when it is ultimately accepted by signing up online for status notifications through BallotTrax.
No. Registered voters in North Carolina must request an absentee ballot online at the N.C. Absentee Ballot Portal or on paper with the 2023 N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form in English (fillable PDF). Submit the completed form to your county board of elections in person or by mail via the U.S. Postal Service, DHL, FedEx, or UPS.
On the Online Form
If you submit the absentee ballot request form online through “Option 1 – Request an Absentee Ballot” at the N.C. Absentee Ballot Portal, a wet ink signature is not required. However, the signature must be unique to the voter and must be readable.
Voters may use their finger, stylus, or mouse for the signature if they have the capability. Voters may not use a service such as DocuSign, which inserts a typed or cursive font signature not made by the voter.
On the Paper Form
If you submit the form on paper, a wet ink signature is required. Voters are not permitted to email or fax request forms.
Contact your county board of elections if you request a ballot for a 2023 municipal election through the online absentee request portal and have not received your ballot within 10 days of your request. If you mail in a ballot request, please allow additional time to receive your ballot.
Track your absentee-by-mail ballot through the mail: Once you have requested your absentee ballot, you can track its status from when it is first sent to you until when it is ultimately accepted by signing up online for status notifications through BallotTrax.
Yes. Your near relative or verifiable legal guardian may request a ballot for you. They may not make changes to your voter registration record, including your name, address, or party affiliation. A near relative is your:
If you need assistance requesting your ballot due to disability, these restrictions do not apply, and you may ask any person to request your ballot.
Anyone requesting a ballot on behalf of a voter will provide their name, address, and relationship to the voter on the absentee request form.
Yes, if your child is a registered voter. The request form must include all required information, including the voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
You will sign and provide your:
- Daytime phone number
- Relationship to the voter
You may not update your child's voter registration record, including name, address, or party affiliation.
The ballot must be mailed.
Any registered voter in a facility may request assistance from a Multipartisan Assistance Team (MAT). A MAT is a group appointed by a county board of elections to assist voters in facilities with mail-in absentee voting. To schedule a MAT visit, contact your county board of elections.
Certain persons may be prohibited from assisting voters in care facilities. For more information, please visit Assistance for Voters in Care Facilities.
If you need assistance requesting your ballot due to disability, you may ask any person to assist with your ballot.
The facility may provide blank forms to the residents or leave them in a common area. Either option is OK. A facility employee may not assist the voter or return a voter’s request form, unless the voter requests that the employee provide assistance due to disability.
On the request form, you should provide the address where you want your ballot sent. This may be different from your residential address, which is the place to which, when you are absent, you intend to return.
Your residential address might be, for example, an RV park or boat dock where you typically return and intend to remain indefinitely. It does not have to be an address where you receive mail. If you do not receive mail at your residential address, or if you want your ballot sent to another address, you should provide the mailing address that you want your ballot mailed to.
You are required to provide your North Carolina residential address, which is the place to which, when you are absent, you intend to return. If you are homeless or live in a non-traditional dwelling, you should list the location or cross-street under the “Residential Address” section where you typically stay or sleep and intend to return when you are absent. This place does not have to be an address where you receive mail. If you do not receive mail at your residential address, or if you want your ballot sent to another address, you should provide the mailing address where you want your ballot mailed.
Organizations may email the 2023 N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form in English (fillable PDF) to voters but may not prefill any part of the forms. Third-party groups should include the instructions with the form.
Marking Your Ballot
One notary public or two witnesses must be in your presence when you mark your absentee ballot. They should only observe you marking your ballot, not how you vote.
Individuals prohibited from witnessing an absentee ballot include:
- A person who is younger than 18.
- A candidate for election, unless the candidate is the voter’s near relative.
- If the voter is a patient or resident at a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or adult care home, the following individuals are also prohibited from assisting:
- an owner, manager, director, or employee of that facility; an individual who holds any elected federal, state, or local office or precinct political party or organization office;
- or a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party.
However, if you need assistance completing your ballot due to disability, you may ask any person who is at least 18 and is not a candidate to witness your ballot, regardless of the above restrictions. For voters in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or adult care home only: a candidate may witness your ballot if you requested their assistance due to a disability.
Yes, if you have not returned the ballot, you may contact your county board of elections and request a new ballot. The first ballot should not be returned and will not count if it is returned.
Yes. Your vote will count toward any contest in which you marked on your ballot.
Returning Your Ballot
Absentee ballots may be returned:
- By mail.
- By commercial courier service. (DHL, FedEx, or UPS.)
- In person at your county board of elections office.
- In person at an open early voting site in your county. You can find early voting sites in your county by using the One-Stop Early Voting Site Search. You may not return an absentee ballot to a polling place on Election Day.
Civilian absentee voters must return the container-return envelope with the voted ballot enclosed to their county board of elections no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day. There are three 2023 municipal election dates in North Carolina:
- Tuesday, Sept. 12 September partisan primaries (Charlotte, Sanford, if necessary)
- Tuesday, Oct. 10 elections (various municipalities)
- Tuesday, Nov. 7 elections (various municipalities)
Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will be counted only if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election. For the November 2023 election, however, that deadline extends to the Monday after the election, because Friday after the election is the Veterans Day holiday, when the mail does not run. Ballots without a postmark must be received by Election Day.
Yes. Voters who vote by mail must include a photocopy of an acceptable ID. Or they may complete a Photo ID Exception Form with the absentee ballot return envelope. Instructions will be included in the absentee ballot packet. For more information, including acceptable types of photo ID, see Voter ID.
Yes. You may still vote in person as long as you do not return your absentee ballot. Your absentee ballot will be spoiled after you vote in person. You may simply discard your absentee ballot. There is no need to bring it with you to a polling place.
No. Once you return your ballot, you may not change or cancel your ballot.
County boards of elections will contact voters when there are deficiencies with their absentee ballot. You should provide your phone number or email address on the request form in case the county board needs to contact you. Additionally, you can track your ballot from printed to accepted by signing up online for status notifications through BallotTrax.
The State Board encourages voters to carefully read and follow the instructions that come with the ballot and to request and return their absentee ballot as early as possible to ensure time remains to correct any issues. If an issue arises and the voter is unable to successfully cast an absentee ballot, that voter may still vote during the in-person early voting period or on Election Day.
No. You may only return someone’s ballot if they are a near relative or verifiable legal guardian. A near relative is your:
This restriction does not apply if a voter asked you to return their ballot due to the voter's disability. Anyone assisting a voter must complete the Voter Assistant Certification on the return envelope.
Yes, but only if that person is a legal guardian or near relative. A near relative is your:
County boards of elections keep track of who drops off each absentee ballot.
If you need assistance returning your ballot due to disability, these restrictions do not apply, and you may ask any person to return your ballot.
Anyone who is not a near relative or legal guardian and is assisting a voter by returning the voter’s ballot due to the voter’s disability must complete the Voter Assistant Certification on the return envelope.
No. The returned ballot envelope is specific to each voter and must contain only that voter’s ballot.
Yes. If you are delivering your voted ballot in person, it must be returned to your county board of elections by 5 p.m. on Election Day. You also may return it to any open early voting site in your county during the early voting period. When you return a ballot in person, you will be required to complete a return log as part of the in-person return process.
No. You may return your ballot to any early voting site in your county during the early voting period, but not to a polling place on Election Day.
No. Each eligible voter’s absentee ballot is counted if it contains all required elements and meets the deadline for return to the county board of elections.
Civilian absentee ballots that arrive at the county board of elections office after Election Day are timely if they are postmarked and that postmark is dated on or before the day of the statewide primary or general election or county bond election and are received by the county board of elections by 5 p.m. no later than three days after the election. The State Board recommends that voters mail their ballot early and get it postmarked.
Staff review the absentee container-return envelope for completeness when it is returned to the office. Returned absentee ballots are approved at absentee meetings of county boards of elections that occur beginning several weeks before the election. In many counties, approved ballots are inserted into the voting machine at the board meeting, but in all counties, the results are not tabulated and reported until Election Day.
Absentee Voting Security
Numerous safeguards are included in the absentee voting process. Absentee ballots are sent only to registered voters who request them using an official N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form before the deadline. The request must be signed and include identifying information about the voter, including date of birth and driver’s license number or last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. Voters must vote their ballot in the presence of two witnesses or a notary, and those witnesses must sign the absentee return envelope certifying that the voter marked their ballot and is the registered voter submitting the marked ballot.
Only the voter or their near relative or legal guardian may return the ballot. Upon return, the county board of elections reviews the absentee envelope to ensure compliance with the legal requirements. Once the ballot is accepted, that voter is marked in the system as having voted in that election.
Data on who has requested absentee ballots is now confidential until Election Day. Criminal penalties have been increased for absentee voting fraud-related offenses. Many people are watching our absentee voting process, including candidates, political parties, county boards of elections, and political and data scientists. If there are anomalies or questionable activities, they will be identified by or reported to election officials.
Finally, the State Board of Elections has an Investigations Division that investigates credible allegations of elections fraud and refers cases to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence. The State Board also conducts several post-election audits which will catch inconsistencies that can then be investigated by the board or the Investigations Division.
If someone has voted an absentee ballot and then shows up to vote in person, the check-in system will alert the poll worker that the person has already voted. Voting twice in the same election is a crime and is investigated by the State Board and referred to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence.
No. Ballots remain in the sealed absentee envelope until they have been fully approved by the board. During the counting process, the ballot is removed from the envelope and fed into the tabulator. Ballots are secret by law, and others will not know who you voted for.
Absentee by mail data is confidential until Election Day or until ballots are returned. This data may be viewed once ballots are returned and counted.