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Political Update: How to Participate in North Carolina’s Primary Election

Early voting for North Carolina’s March 5 primary election is open through March 2. In addition to the Presidential election, North Carolinians will also have congressional, council of state, judicial, state legislative, and countywide races on their ballot this year. When applicable, the primary election will determine which candidate from each party will be their nominee for the general election on Nov. 5, 2024. In the following post, NC Chamber Political Director Kirk O’Steen provides more information about how to participate in primary elections.  

Who Can Participate in Primary Elections?

Everyone registered to vote in North Carolina can participate in the 2024 primary election. Not registered to vote? Read below for details on how to register.

Since the primary election is centered around party nominees, you might wonder which primaries you can participate in.

If your voter registration is affiliated with a certain political party, you can only participate in that party’s primaries. Democrats can only vote in the Democratic primary. Republicans can only vote in the Republican primary. The same rule applies for the Libertarian, Green, and Constitutional parties.

If you are registered “Unaffiliated” you can  choose which primary to participate in when you go to vote. North Carolina is what’s called a “Semi-closed” primary state and this allows unaffiliated voters to vote in any primary for a given election. For instance, an unaffiliated voter could participate in the Democratic primary in 2022, then participate in the Republican primary in 2024. The only stipulation is that you can only vote in one primary per election. You cannot pull both a Republican and Democrat ballot.

How to Find Your Voting Information

The best place to find your voting information is to go to the North Carolina State Board of Election Website.

Enter your name and county to find your voter information, including your voting districts, polling location, voting history, and even sample ballot can be found here. Note: It is public record which elections you participated in. However, it is still private which candidates you actually voted for.

How to Vote in the Primary Election

There are three ways to participate in primary elections:

Early Voting: Now through March 2, registered voters can vote at any early voting location in the county in which they are registered to vote.  Click here to find the early voting location closest to you.

Election Day Voting: Registered voters can also vote on Election Day (Tues., March 5). Unlike early voting,  voters can only vote on Election Day at their designated precinct voting location.

Absentee Voting: Voters who cannot make it to the polls can request an absentee ballot to vote by mail. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Feb. 27. Additional information about absentee voting is available here. Absentee ballots must be received by the Board of Election or dropped off at your precinct polling location by Tuesday, March 5 at 7:30pm. 

Important Things to Know When Voting

Photo ID: New for the 2024 election, voters will be asked to provide a photo ID to confirm their identity. Additional information, including a list of acceptable photo IDs, is available here.

Note: Voters who do not have a photo ID can get one for free from the State Board of Elections. If you go to the polls without a photo ID, you can still vote either by filling out an ID exception form and voting with a provisional ballot or by voting with a provisional ballot and returning to your county board of election with a photo ID before the county canvass is complete on the second Thursday after the election.

No Pictures: In North Carolina, it is illegal to take pictures inside a polling location. This means you should not take a selfie with your ballot.

Sample Ballots: Ballots can be long and it can be tough to remember all the names of the candidates you want to vote for. Voters can bring in a notepad or print out a sample ballot and bring it to the polls.

Early Voting Locations: Click here to find the early voting location closest to you.

How to Register to Vote

Perhaps you looked up your voter registration and nothing came back. Maybe you have never voted in North Carolina or don’t remember registering to vote. If that’s the case, never fear!

Registering to Vote: Register to vote online, in-person at the DMV, or by mail. Click here for instructions.

The Bad News: The deadline for regular voter registration has already passed in order to be eligible to vote in the March primary.

The Good News: You can still register to vote and cast your ballot during the early voting period using Same Day Registration.

Same Day Registration: You can go to one of your county’s early voting locations and tell them you’d like to register to vote. You will need to attest to your eligibility and provide proof of where you live. Once registered, you can cast your ballot just like everyone else. Additional information is available here.

Note: This does not apply to changing your party affiliation. For example, you cannot be a registered Democrat in North Carolina then change your voter registration to Libertarian Party to participate in the Libertarian primary using same day registration.

Who is Eligible for Voter Registration

Per the NC State Board of Election Website, to register to vote in North Carolina, you must be a U.S. citizen, live in the county where you are registering and have resided there for at least 30 days prior to Election Day, be at least 18 years old or will be by the date of the general election, and not be serving a felony sentence, including any period of probation, post-release supervision, or parole.

If you have questions or are interested in learning more about the NC Chamber Political Program or participating in our voter education efforts, please reach out to Kirk O’Steen