Commentary, Defending Democracy

Voting expert: What you need to know about the fall election (and how you can help)

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Confused about the rules for voting in North Carolina in 2020? Join the club! During the 20 years I’ve been helping citizens vote, I have never experienced this much fear and confusion about the basic rules for voting and election safety and integrity.

With the 2020 election three months away, new rules for voting in North Carolina, anxieties over COVID-19, and foreign interference disrupting the election, voters are rightly concerned about making their ballot count.

However, by educating yourself and others, as well as getting involved with voter registration drives and and staffing our polling places, we can ensure that our elections will be both secure and accessible for all eligible North Carolina voters.

There are four requirements to register and vote in North Carolina:

  • be a U.S. citizen;
  • be 16 years old to pre-register and be 18 years old by Election Day;
  • live at your residence for at least 30 days before Election Day, which is Nov. 3, 2020;
  • not be currently serving a felony sentence or still being on probation or parole for a felony.

And here are some key dates:

  • Election Day is Nov. 3
  • Absentee ballot request forms for the election are due Oct. 27, but we recommend registered voters request their absentee ballot as soon as possible. Request forms and steps for submission are available here.
  • You must be registered by Oct. 9 if you plan to vote either in person or by absentee ballot. Otherwise, you can go to an early voting site and register in person and vote in person.
  • Early Voting is from Oct. 15-31, 2020.

Want to do more to preserve and protect democracy?

Empower yourself and others by attending a virtual #Vote2020 Training provided by You Can Vote. Learn up-to-date voting rules and common misconceptions. Remember, Photo ID is not required to vote in 2020. We’ll share our best practices for educating and registering voters and what to bring if you wish to register and vote during the Early Voting period.

Become a Voting Rights Champion. Voters must be registered and have the most up-to-date voting rules to make their vote count. However, COVID-19 halted traditional in-person education and registration activities. In a year when civic organizations should be breaking records in the number of voter registrations, new registrations across North Carolina have plummeted.

You Can Vote’s new Voting Rights Champions program is designed to help you and your organization safely provide verified, bilingual, easy-to-read information to help voters cast their ballot successfully in 2020. You Can Vote will provide free training, materials and support for nonpartisan organizations.

Become a poll worker.  North Carolina will face a critical shortage of poll workers since the average age of a North Carolina poll worker is 60 and older. Since COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting older individuals, many are choosing not to return. We need younger, healthier individuals to step up and join the North Carolina Board of Election’s  Democracy Heroes program and help work the election. Democracy Heroes will be provided PPE for protection.

We must work together to protect our democracy and the integrity of our elections, beginning with ensuring all voters understand the rules and requirements of voting and can exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Kate Fellman is the founder and director of You Can Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization that educates, registers and empowers citizens to cast their vote. Based in North Carolina, this volunteer and community-driven group provides effective volunteer training and trusted nonpartisan election information to hundreds of partner organizations and agencies across the state.

One Comment


  1. Donna M Hollingsworth

    July 30, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    I would be willing to send text to help with this election. I am a 71 years old women and this is the most important election of our age to safe guard our CONSTITUTION and our COUNTRY.

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