The 2020 elections may seem a long way away, but they're already close enough to start planning for. Indeed, boards of elections everywhere are scrambling to try to avoid the long lines and dangerous conditions we’ve seen in Georgia’s recent primaries. Elections in the United States are infamous for their long lines, which, in the best of times, pose a severe obstacle to voting, especially for working-class citizens who can’t afford to spend all day waiting to exercise their basic rights.
However, with COVID-19 in the air, these long lines could even prove deadly, both to voters and the poll workers who are essential to running elections in a timely manner. Luckily, for all residents of North Carolina, there’s a way to avoid the lines entirely and vote from the comfort of your own home: requesting an absentee ballot.
It’s impossible to say where our public health situation will be in November, but it’s nearly certain that we will still be social distancing as much as we can. Polling stations, like any central meeting place, will act as an ideal means for the virus to spread itself, especially if most people decide to vote in person. By voting absentee, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from disease while still quickly and easily adding your voice to the democratic process.
Students who haven’t voted absentee before, or even voted at all, may be confused about this process, since it differs from our traditional image of physically going to the polls, bubbling your vote and sliding it into a vote counter. Fortunately, the entire process is really quite simple.
New students may be voting in the 2020 election for the first time in their lives, and as such, may not be registered. For those who have a driver’s license, you can register completely online through the DMV, but if you don’t have one, you can print the voter registration form, fill it out and physically mail it to your county’s board of elections (the linked page has a list of contact information for all 100 counties). For students who live in Wake County, the mailing address is:
Wake County Board of Elections
PO Box 695
Raleigh, NC 27602.
Once you have registered with your county — which you can check here — you need to request an absentee ballot. Several states across the country have decided to automatically send ballots to every citizen, but North Carolina has not. This part is extremely easy though. After you have printed, filled out and signed the absentee request form, you can scan it and email it directly to your county. For Wake County residents, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, at some point after your request is submitted, you will receive an absentee ballot for the election by mail at the address listed in your request form, as well as an envelope to return it in. During most elections, you would have to fill in the ballot in the presence of two adult witnesses, but thanks to a recent law, this number is reduced to one other person. This person should not be looking at your votes, merely observing that you are the one writing on your ballot. You and your witness must both sign the envelope, which must be used to return your ballot, again to your county’s board of elections.
Although the election is months away, there is no reason to not submit your paperwork well ahead of time. The fall semester is likely to be a hectic experience for everyone, as our classes are being squished into a narrow time frame, with fewer days of vacation to rest and recuperate. Keeping track of school and your civic responsibilities might be difficult later on, so take advantage of the summer to make voting as easy as possible for yourself in November.