Commentary, COVID-19, Housing

Evicted or forced to move? You can still vote.

With hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents on the verge of losing their homes because they can’t pay rent, we must make sure those caught in the middle of a national eviction crisis are not disenfranchised this November.

Losing your home does not mean you should lose your right to vote.

Educating those evicted or facing eviction about their voting rights is critical. North Carolina election officials should inform anyone who has been forced out of their homes of their options for voting in this year’s election.

Transitioned to temporary housing?

In most cases, if you are living in temporary housing, you can use your former address as your voter registration address if you intend to return to that home.

That means if you’ve temporarily moved in with a friend or family member, you can still vote with your old address, whether it’s by absentee or in person.

First, you should confirm your current registration on youcanvote.org/register. 

You have the right to update your registration to reflect your current address if you consider that place your new home.

The bottom line is that your legal voting residence is the place you consider your “permanent” home. Permanent can mean the place you’re staying for the foreseeable future or it can mean the place you intend to return to when your financial situation improves.

You can keep your old registration address even if you’ve moved to another county or state, as long as you plan on returning to the old address. If you don’t plan on returning or are staying in your new location for an indefinite period of time, then you should change your registration to your new location.

Facing homelessness?

Even being homeless should not be a barrier to making your voice heard on Election Day. If you’re homeless, you can still register to vote using the location where you usually spend the night, whether it’s on the streets or in a shelter. Voter registration paper forms provide a map where applicants can mark where they usually sleep. The law also allows you to list a mailing address that is different from the place you spend the night.

Keep in mind that once you do register in a new location, it will make you ineligible to vote at your old location.

Housing insecurity is a real concern during this pandemic and economic crisis. The Aspen Institute estimates that more than 700,000 North Carolina renters could face eviction by the end of September. Nationwide, 23 million people are at risk of eviction.

Know your voting rights

Knowing your rights is essential. This also means making sure you know the upcoming deadlines to register to vote or update your registration. In North Carolina, the deadline to register to vote is Friday, Oct. 9, whether you do it online or in-person. If you’re mailing in your registration, it must be postmarked by Oct. 9.

However, even if you miss that deadline, you can still register in person during the early voting period, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 15, to Saturday, Oct. 31. If you register using this “same-day registration” option, you’ll need to attest to your eligibility and provide proof of residence.

The other important date to keep in mind is that election officials must receive your request for an absentee ballot by Tuesday, Oct. 27. However, because of potential mail delivery delays, you should request a ballot as early as possible and mail it back as soon as you can, or drop it off at an official drop location.

Those who have been evicted or those facing eviction, can find more information about registering to vote and residency requirements at the North Carolina State Board of Elections or visit You Can Vote’s Accessible Voting Guide.

All eligible North Carolina voters have the right to make their voices heard in this year’s election, even if they don’t have a place to call home.

People who have lost their jobs and homes during this economic disaster are facing so many challenges — they should not have to worry about whether they can still vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Kate Fellman is the executive director and founder of You Can Vote.

Commentary, Defending Democracy

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

Image: Adobe Stock

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.