Before looking into polling places, absentee deadlines or sample ballots, there's a crucial thing everyone interested in casting a vote for the 2020 election must do — make sure they are actually registered to vote.
Several states offer multiple ways to register to vote, and the Carolinas are no exception. So if you're a resident of North Carolina or South Carolina and hoping to vote this year, here's what you need to know in order to register to vote.
Chapter one: North Carolina
NC voter registration qualifications
First, here are qualifications that you must meet in order to register to vote in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections:
- Must be a U.S. citizen and must live in the county where the voter is registering — specifically, voters must have resided in that county for at least 30 days prior to the date of the election.
- Must be at least 18 years old, with exceptions made for those who will be 18 by the date of the general election. However, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds may preregister to vote, and 17-year-olds can vote in a primary if they will be 18 by the general election.
- Must not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction. This includes probation, parole, or post-release supervision. It's important to note, in this case, once an individual has completed a felony sentence or been pardoned, they are eligible to register and vote.
How to register to vote in North Carolina
If you fit all those requirements, then you're eligible to register to vote in North Carolina. Here's how to proceed.
NC residents are first required to fill out a form to either register to vote or update aspects of their voter registration — updates could be for a change of name, address, or party affiliation.
Once the form is filled out, the North Carolina State Board of Elections asks applicants to mail the signed form to their local county board of elections office or drop it off in person.
Existing registrants in the county are also allowed to fax or email the signed form, but that isn't the case for new registrants.
However, there is another way — DMV customers with a North Carolina license are now able to register to vote or update certain parts of their registrations online but they may not change their name using that tool.
NCSBE said this is a standalone service and doesn't require the user to complete a transaction through the DMV since there isn't a fee for voter registration services.
If the application is accepted, the county board of elections will mail you your voter registration card. But if applicants miss the deadline, the application won't be processed until after the election.
The deadline this year falls on Friday, October 9, 2020.
But if all else fails, don't panic — you can still register to vote in person after that deadline using same-day registration in your county.
On September 1, NCSBE debuted a new online portal where registered voters can request an absentee-by-mail ballot entirely online.
North Carolina same-day registration
For same-day registration in North Carolina, the voter needs to be able to prove residency status and eligibility to vote. They can do this through a signed voter registration application and by presenting one of the following documents showing the voter's current name and address:
- NC driver’s license or other photo ID issued by the government with the current name and address. It's important to note: NCSBE said it's acceptable if government-issued ID cards are expired so long as the name and address are current.
- A copy of a bill, check, or statement showing the applicant's current name and address — this includes utility bills, bank statements, government checks, paychecks, other government documents so long as they were issued within three months of the date it's presented.
- A current ID card from a college or university if it's paired with a document from the institution with the student's name and on-campus location or a current roster from the institution listing students in campus housing facilities, sent to the county board of elections office.
Chapter two: South Carolina
SC voter registration qualifications
South Carolina, unlike North Carolina, does not have a length of residency requirement in order to vote. If you live in the Palmetto State, you can register. However, you do have to register at least 30 days before the actual election.
Here are qualifications that you must meet in order to register to vote in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Election Commission:
- Must be a citizen of the United States and a resident of South Carolina in the county and precinct in which the voter is registering
- Must be at least 18-years-old by the next election
- Must not be under a court order declaring the voter mentally incompetent
- Must not be confined in public prison resulting from the conviction of a crime
- Must never have been convicted of a felony or offense against election laws. There are two exceptions to this rule: if someone previously convicted has served the entire sentence, including probation or parole, or has received a pardon for that conviction.
How to register to vote in South Carolina
South Carolina residents wishing to vote must register at least 30 days before the election, but the deadline is slightly different depending on how you register.
If registering online, the deadline is Sunday, October 4. If registering by mail, it must be postmarked by Monday, October 5. If registering in person though, the deadline is a few days earlier — Friday, October 2.
In South Carolina, residents can vote online, in person, or by mail/fax.
To register online, residents need to have a South Carolina driver's license handy or a DMV ID. If they recently moved, they need to first update the residence address directly with the DMV.
To register in person, residents can visit their county board of voter registration or can opt to register at certain state agencies such as the DMV.
To register by mail, email or fax, applicants can download a voter registration form and send the completed form to their county board of registration.
But if you're not quite sure if you registered to vote already or not, there's a quick fix for that.