Prepare for the primary

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By Brent Ducharme

Special to the Post

As the March 15 primary approaches, recent changes in state voting law are adding an extra layer of confusion for North Carolinians navigating the path to the polls. It is vital for voters to be prepared for the election on March 15. Voters with questions or concerns can call the national Election Protection hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683). The hotline is available during early voting and will be staffed by volunteer attorneys and trained UNC Law students on Election Day.

Under North Carolina law, the last day to register for the March 15 primary was Feb. 19.  If you failed to register last week, you can still vote during the early voting period, which is scheduled to last from March 3 to March 12. During early voting, you can go to an early voting site, register and vote in one stop. There is no same-day registration on Election Day (March 15).

During the early voting period, registered voters can cast a ballot at any of the designated early voting sites in their county. Check with your local county Board of Elections for information on where early voting sites are located and when they will be open.

If you plan to vote on March 15, you must vote at your assigned precinct. You can check your registration and find your polling place at the NC State Board of Elections website:

On Election Day, March 15, the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m.

All voters will be asked to present a photo ID. Acceptable photo IDs include a North Carolina driver’s license or other DMV-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID card, or a tribal enrollment card. The address listed on the photo ID does not need to match the address on a voter’s registration. However, school-issued student IDs will not be accepted.

Voters who arrive to the polls without an acceptable ID can still cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots, and accompanying declaration forms that explain why a voter does not have a photo ID, will be available at all voting sites.

Voters casting provisional ballots must also either: (1) provide their birthdate and the last four digits of their Social Security Number on the declaration form; or (2) present a voter registration card, bank statement, utility bill, or government document with their name and address on it.

If you encounter or observe any problems while trying to vote, call the national Election Protection hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683).

Remember these important points and exercise your constitutional right to vote: (1) if you didn’t register before Feb. 19 and you want to vote, you must vote during the early voting period, March 3-12; (2) vote early if possible at any early voting location in your county, but on Election Day go your assigned polling place; and (3) bring your photo ID, but even if you don’t have one, you can still vote!

Brent Ducharme is an attorney-fellow with the UNC Center for Civil Rights in Chapel Hill.