Voting by mail, in recent years, has become a widely adopted method of casting your ballot. However, not everyone is fully aware of their voting options and how exactly to participate in absentee voting in 2023. Have no fear, that’s what Good Party is here for. As it pertains to absentee voting in Durham, North Carolina, there’s a lot of critical info that voters need in order to make the most informed decisions for themselves – both in terms of who they’re voting for, and how they’re voting.
In this step-by-step guide to all the mail-in voting options available to Durham, NC voters, we’ll cover all aspects of absentee voting benefits, absentee voting eligibility, Durham voter resources, and absentee voting instructions, among a host of other helpful and actionable items to help Durham voters cast the most informed possible vote they can.
To start with the absolute basics: absentee voting is any form of voting that allows you, the voter, to cast a ballot for all available elections and races in your given district, city, and state without physically needing to cast your ballot in a voting booth in person. While in-person voting still represents the majority of all ballots cast, absentee voting-by-mail is quickly becoming a normalized, standard alternative for casting one’s vote.
When the Covid pandemic struck in 2020, voting by mail skyrocketed to historic proportions, as it simply wasn’t safe for many residents to physically pack themselves into polling places around their communities. To stay safe from Covid, especially in the pre-vaccine era, voters overwhelmingly elected to cast votes by mail, in which their ballots are mailed to voters, they select all of their choices for the respective offices that are up for election, and then they send their completed ballot back in the mail to the city or state they made their selections in.
That’s what the “absentee” in absentee voting means: you were absent for physically showing up to the polling place. And there’s a ton of reasons why someone would elect for an absentee ballot over physically voting to register their civic engagement with the state: some voters may be too old or ill to leave their homes, some voters may be out-of-state on actual Election Day, whether in a different state or different country entirely, and some members of the military have absentee voting as their only option to have their voices heard in their hometown or home state while they are off serving in locations elsewhere.
We’ll break down all of the different types of absentee voting requirements, absentee voting deadlines, and absentee voting benefits and how it helps maintain voter flexibility in Durham, NC. Let’s get into it.
Durham, NC has a slate of specific requirements and deadlines to meet if you’d like to successfully register your vote via an absentee ballot. In terms of qualifications, every single registered voter in Durham, NC is eligible to vote by mail – you don’t need a specific reason other than the fact that you simply prefer to vote by mail. However, you do have to request an absentee ballot by specific deadlines so that the city can actually tabulate your vote.
In Durham, NC, anyone who wishes to vote by mail must apply for an absentee ballot using this form online or by printing and filling out this paper application, and then either mailing it to or physically dropping it off at your county board of elections. If you don’t fill out these forms, you cannot vote by mail, so make it a priority if you don’t want to – or can’t – vote in person!
Additionally, and this is important for Durham election procedures – if you are a near relative or legal guardian of a potential voter who is unable to complete those forms themselves, you can complete those forms to request an absentee ballot on their behalf. This is common amongst older voters and voters who may be sick or otherwise impaired to the point that they cannot request those absentee ballot forms themselves.
Another very important factor to keep in mind when voting absentee in Durham, NC: you must request your absentee ballot by 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election! For Durham’s elections on October 10, 2023, that means you need to request an absentee ballot by 5:00 p.m. on October 3. Then, once you’ve filled out your absentee ballot, make it an urgent priority to either drop it off in person – or mail it back to the Board of Electors, postmarked by 5:00 p.m. on Election Day itself.
Though all remote voting accessibility options ultimately boil down to receiving an absentee ballot via mail, there are several different routes, purposes, and versions of absentee ballots that are used for voters in specific circumstances. Let’s break down all of Durham, NC’s remote voting options:
Standard absentee ballot
Anyone can request this via an online form or by dropping off a paper application. No specific reason is needed: anyone can vote via the standard absentee vote-by-mail ballot.
Requesting an absentee ballot for someone else
If you need to request a ballot for a family member who is otherwise unable to request the form themselves, you may do so on their behalf – as long as you’re a near family member or a legal guardian of theirs. If so, this process is essentially the same as requesting a standard absentee ballot for yourself.
Military and overseas voters
For active members of the military who are unable to vote in person, as well as U.S. citizens living outside of the States, a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) must be filled out prior to casting your vote via mail.
Confirm that, as an overseas voter, you are still registered to vote in Durham, NC before requesting your FPCA – it can start to become a headache if you haven’t completed your voter registration first.
To summarize, here is a step-by-step guide you can follow yourself if you’d like to vote absentee in Durham, NC for the 2023 election cycle:
Register to vote.
Perhaps the single most important step: make sure you are registered to vote in the state of North Carolina. If you aren’t registered, or aren’t sure, you can check your status and complete your registration by visiting this helpful link. You can also explore our complete guide to voter registration in Durham.
Request your absentee ballot.
Whatever the reason for requesting your ballot – whether it’s just a personal preference, you’re sick, or currently living abroad – make sure you request your mail-in ballot with enough time to fill out your selections and send back your ballot so that it’s postmarked by 5:00 p.m. on Election Day itself (October 10) at the absolute latest.
And for active duty military and/or U.S. citizens currently living abroad, the form you fill out is the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).
Make your voting selections.
Most ballots use the standard multiple choice-style fill-in-the-circle next to the candidate of your choice, for every office that is currently holding an election. Make sure your selections are clear and distinct, with no messiness that could lead to potential uncertainty on behalf of the vote counters and tabulation machines.
To see what an absentee ballot looks like in Durham, NC in 2023, the North Carolina State Board of Electors has a handy resource for looking up a sample ballot, so that when it comes time to cast your vote for real, you aren’t confused or overwhelmed by the formatting of your absentee ballot.
Mail back, or drop off, your completed absentee ballot.
Once you’ve finished filling out your ballot, make sure to mail back your ballot to the following address:
By mail: Durham County Board of Elections, Attn: Absentee Ballots, PO Box 868, Durham, NC, 27702
In person drop-off: Durham County Board of Elections, 201 N. Roxboro Street, Durham, NC 27701
Congratulate yourself for participating in democracy and making your voice heard!
Seriously. Not enough people vote, and real concrete changes and improvements in Durham’s political system are only possible when people take to the polls to make their voices heard.
Voting by mail is a great option if you find yourself stressed out about voting – the process of filling out your ballot and sending it back via mail can be a lot less stressful and much easier compared with traditional in-person voting. The more voting options are available to the public, the more they’ll turn out to vote – and as we’ve seen, more participation in democracy from the people, not less, is what’s needed to help steer our communities in the right direction. Stay informed about important election updates – in Durham, NC and elsewhere – by subscribing to Good Party’s newsletter, and check out our 2023 Durham independent voter guide for more information on the upcoming elections.
Image Credit: Tiffany Tertipes