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N.C. Board of Elections offers guidance for students planning to vote by mail this fall

Several student volunteers work a table in the Pit to assist others in registering to vote on Oct. 1, 2019.

As many UNC students change living arrangements with the University transitioning to remote learning, some have expressed concern about how to vote in the November election. 

Cora Martin, a sophomore political science major at UNC, said figuring out the absentee request process has been confusing. 

Martin said she was initially going to live on campus for the fall semester but decided a week before classes started to live at home. She is planning on voting early in person in Durham County, but she requested an absentee ballot just in case she decides to vote by mail instead.

“I’m worried about the USPS delays almost as much as I’m worried about coronavirus, so it’s been a back and forth for me,” Martin said.

Theodore Shaw, professor of law and director of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC, said it’s important for young people to vote. He said they should take their privilege and civic duty to vote seriously.

“Once they are eligible, they have in their grasp — they hold in their hands — the power, the ability to have their voice weigh as much as anybody else in the country,” Shaw said.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections released guidance Monday for college students who plan to vote by mail in the upcoming election.

“We released this guidance to try to help students navigate the absentee voting process because we heard that many students may be confused about how it works given the circumstances with COVID and the fact that a lot of students have been displaced from their campus housing,” said Patrick Gannon, the Board's public information officer.

At what address should students request their absentee ballot?  

Students who want to vote by mail should make sure they request their ballot to be sent at an address where they know they will receive it, according to the press release. Students who registered to vote at their campus address and have not yet requested an absentee ballot can request a ballot and have it sent to an address of their choosing.

What should students do if they already requested an absentee ballot on campus but have left? 

Students who have already requested an absentee ballot but must leave campus due to COVID-19, or for any other reason, may submit a new request to have their ballot sent to a different address, the press release said. 

They should make a note on the new form, such as “updated” or “changed," to alert county elections workers that it is an updated request. Students can email or contact their county Board of Elections office to double check that the new absentee ballot will be sent to the updated address.

What should students do if they're not sure if they want to vote in person or vote by mail? 

North Carolina voters who are unsure whether they want to vote in person or by mail have until Oct. 27 to request an absentee ballot if they decide to vote by mail, according to the press release. Voters still have the option to vote in person during the 17-day period of early voting from Oct. 15 to Oct. 31, or on Election Day on Nov. 3.

Can students request an absentee ballot online? 

Beginning Sept. 1, all registered voters in North Carolina will be able to request an absentee ballot through a portal on the state Board's website, according to the press release. 

“The form online will be just like the form you fill out on paper, however you can sign it and submit it online without having to print or mail anything,” Gannon said.

Shaw said no matter what someone’s personal views are, everybody has a responsibility to vote and participate in the democratic process.

“People have lost their lives for the right to vote. People fought for decades and decades,” Shaw said. “The right to vote was bought and paid for in blood and in struggle, and so I don’t think anybody should take it for granted.” 

 @DTHCityState |  

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