On Oct. 10, 2023, voters in Durham, North Carolina will have the chance to elect members of their local government in the municipal election. This voter guide will cover which offices are up for election, how to get ready to vote, and why voting on Oct. 10 is so important for Durham.
Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about Durham, North Carolina’s upcoming city elections:
Two municipal elections are coming up in Durham. The first, the municipal primary election, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. Then, the general municipal election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 and Nov. 7. Early voting and absentee voting are also options for Durham voters.
Durham residents will have the opportunity to vote for their next mayor and for three open city council seats.
The two mayoral candidates who win the most votes in the October primary will advance to the November general election. The top six city council candidates will also advance to the general election.
So far, eight candidates are running for mayor in the Oct. 10 non-partisan primary election. Here are the eight candidates running for mayor in Durham:
Marshall Williams, Jr.
Durham’s current mayor, Elaine O’Neal, is not running for reelection. O’Neal has been mayor of Durham since 2021. She announced her decision not to seek reelection in mid-June.
Meanwhile, 12 candidates have lined up to compete for the three open seats on Durham’s city council. All three positions are at-large seats, meaning all Durham voters will have a say in their election. Here are the 12 city council candidates:
Of these 12 candidates, only Javiera Caballero and Monique Holsey-Hyman are incumbent council members. And only three candidates are Good Party certified: J.J. Campbell, Shelia Ann Huggins, and Sherri Zann Rosenthal. Being Good Party certified means that Campbell, Huggins, and Rosenthal have committed to the following values:
Running a truly independent campaign, and putting the people of Durham before any personal or partisan interests
Running a grassroots, people-powered campaign, meaning the majority of their campaign funds come from real people, not from corporations, special interests, or political action committees (PACs)
Staying dedicated to transparency and accountability, both during their campaigns and, once elected, while in office
Sample ballots are soon to be released from the Durham County Board of Elections. To view the full slate of Good Party certified candidates running for office in North Carolina, check out our North Carolina independent voter guide.
Plan ahead and find out your polling place early. To find your polling location, simply enter your address here.
To vote in North Carolina, you must bring a photo ID with you to your polling location. Here are the acceptable forms of photo identification:
Any of the following forms of ID, as long as they are unexpired or have been expired for under a year:
North Carolina driver’s license
State ID from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV), also called a non-operator ID
U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport card
North Carolina voter photo ID issued by your county board of elections
College student ID approved by the State Board of Elections
State or local government or charter school employee ID approved by the State Board of Elections
Driver’s license or non-driver ID from another state or U.S. territory (only valid if you registered to vote in North Carolina within 90 days of the election)
Any of the following forms of ID, whether or not they are expired:
Government-issued military or veterans ID card
Tribal enrollment card issued by a state- or federally recognized tribe
ID card issued by an agency of the federal or state government for a public assistance program
Voters over the age of 65 may also use an expired form of ID as long as the ID was unexpired on their 65th birthday.
If you do not have any of the above forms of photo identification, you can obtain a no-fee ID card from the DMV or visit your county board of elections to get a free photo ID. Even if you show up to vote without a photo ID, you may still be able to vote by filling out an ID Exception Form, which will be approved if you meet the qualifications listed by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
North Carolina residents have a number of options for registering to vote. Keep in mind these important deadlines for registering to vote in Durham:
To vote in the Oct. 10 primary and municipal election, you must register to vote by Sept. 15.
To vote in the Nov. 7 general municipal election, you must register to vote by Oct. 13.
To check your voter registration status, enter your information here. If you are not registered, you can easily register online here, or by downloading the myNCDMV app on the App Store or Google Play. You can also update your address or change your party affiliation online.
Other options for registering to vote include registering by mail and making use of same day voter registration. Same day voter registration is only an option during early voting, not on election day. For more information on these methods and for answers to common questions about registering to vote, read Good Party’s complete guide to registering to vote in Durham, North Carolina.
Early voting for the October primary election will run from Thursday, Sept. 21 to Saturday, Oct. 7. Early voting for the November general election will run from Thursday, Oct. 19 to Saturday, Nov. 4.
Note that early voting locations may be different from election day polling locations. The list of early voting locations is soon to be released by the Durham County Board of Elections.
Absentee-by-mail voting for the October primary election will begin on Sunday, Sept. 10. For the November general election, absentee voting will begin on Sunday, Oct. 8.
You can request an absentee ballot online through the North Carolina Absentee Ballot Portal. You can also download the absentee ballot request form here. If you choose to download the absentee ballot request form, you must submit the completed form to your county board of elections, either in person or by mail.
We’ve all heard that voting is important, and it’s true that voting is an essential civic duty. But why does voting in municipal elections really matter, and what difference can voting make in your community? To understand the answer to this question, let’s take a closer look at how Durham’s city government functions.
Durham, North Carolina has a council-manager form of government. In this system, voters elect city council members and a mayor, who also serves on the city council. There are seven city council members in total: three at-large seats, one seat representing each of Durham’s three wards, and the mayor.
Together, the city council members appoint a city manager, as well as a city attorney, city clerk, and the members of various boards, committees, and commissions. The city manager’s job is to manage the city’s budget, oversee personnel decisions, and provide the council with recommendations.
In addition to making these appointments, the city council has the following responsibilities:
Approving the city’s annual budget — an act which affects wide-ranging areas of public life, from property taxes to education (you can take a look at Durham’s 2022-2023 budget here)
Authorizing contracts on the city’s behalf
Enacting city ordinances, resolutions, and orders
Establishing general city policies
With such weighty responsibilities, the mayor and city council members play a significant role in shaping the future of Durham.
Voting in Durham in 2023 is especially important, given the number of issues facing the Bull City and the recent divisions that have taken place within the city council. Questions about urban development and gentrification, affordable housing and racial disparities, and gun violence — a particularly poignant topic after the recent lockdown and fatal shooting at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill — are all up for debate as election day approaches. For a closer look at these top issues facing Durham voters, read our guide to the issues. From local economic development to public safety, Durham’s next group of leaders will play a pivotal role in leading the city forward.
Recent divisions within Durham’s city council also raise the stakes for the Oct. 10 election. One event contributing to those divisions has been allegations against incumbent council member Monique Holsey-Hyman, who is currently running for reelection. On March 23, 2023, Mayor O’Neal read a letter to the city council that outlined the allegations against Holsey-Hyman — allegations of extortion. Holsey-Hyman was also accused of using city employees to support her election campaign. This level of dysfunction and even corruption within the city council reveals how badly Durham needs new, people-powered leaders.
Want to keep learning or get more involved? Here are more resources to help you feel ready for election day:
Become part of the movement for change by joining the Good Party community. Good Party is a national organization dedicated to empowering local voters and fixing America’s political dysfunction. To get plugged in, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter, join the growing Discord community, or learn how to volunteer your time, either remotely or in person.
Whether it’s your first time voting or you’ve been voting in elections for years, Durham needs everyone to step up and turn out to vote. On Oct. 10, Durham voters have the chance to select their city’s next team of leaders— the people who will make some of the most significant decisions affecting daily life in Durham. You can stay updated with the latest news about Good Party certified candidates running in Durham’s municipal elections by signing up for Good Party’s weekly newsletter.