Elections

It's time to vote in NC. Here's what you need to know on Election Day.

North Carolinians this year have a chance to tilt the balance of power in both state and federal politics.

The top of the November ballot won't feature candidates for president, U.S. Senate or governor.

But each of North Carolina's 13 seats in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is up for election, as well as every seat in the GOP-controlled NC General Assembly. And the first step in narrowing the field of candidates for those seats comes in the May 8 primary elections.

Democrats hope to make significant gains in Congress, where Republicans hold 10 of NC's House seats. In the legislature, where Republicans can override Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes, Democrats expect to break the supermajority and hope to gain control of either the state House or state Senate.

Let's take a look at how North Carolinians can vote this year.

Who's on the ballot?

Ballots will look different in each county. In some counties, sheriff and Board of Commissioners seats are up for election. (Each of the seven board seats is up for election in Wake County — five of them have primaries — and three are up in Orange County.)

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Legislature: All 120 state House seats and 50 state Senate seats are up for election. Democrats need four House seats or six Senate seats to break the Republican supermajorities.

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Congress: Each incumbent member of Congress is running for re-election. Experts expect competitive races in districts held by Republicans George Holding (District 2), Robert Pittenger (District 9) and Ted Budd (District 13).

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U.S. Rep. George Holding talks with Duane Cutlip on June 7, 2016 at the Hibernian in Raleigh, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

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Statewide: There are no statewide races in the primary. But the general election this November includes statewide races for the NC Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court. Three appeals court seats are up for election, as well as one state Supreme Court seat. While the candidate filing period has closed for most races, it doesn't open for judicial races until June 18.

Nonetheless, some campaigns are already underway. Incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson, a Republican, faces a challenge from Democrat Anita Earls.

Election days

Primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m., in accordance with state law. If any voter is in line to vote at the time polls close, he or she will be permitted to vote.

It's too late to vote early in the primary. Early voting for primaries started on Thursday, April 19, and ended on Saturday, May 5. Early voting for the November election starts on Thursday, Oct. 18, and ends Saturday, Nov. 3.

Are you registered?

If you're not yet a registered voter, you won't be able to vote in the primary.

What about the general election? Those who want to vote Nov. 6 must register to vote by Oct. 12 at their county's local Board of Elections office. (To see if you're registered, go here.) There's also one-stop registration and early voting during the general election.

North Carolina has one-stop early voting, so you can register and vote at the same time.

Same-day registrants must fill out a registration form, attest to their eligibility to vote and provide proof of residence. This proof can be a North Carolina driver's license, other government-issued photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement or government document showing name and address. College photo IDs are also accepted when paired with proof that the student lives on campus.

North Carolina residents who are 18 or older are eligible to register to vote. Those 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the Nov. 6 general election can also register, and can vote in the primary even before they turn 18.

For more information on registering to vote, go to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement website.

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Shaw junior Essence Shelton and about 50 students from Shaw University marched to Chavis Community Center in Raleigh, N.C. during the first day of early voting Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com


Voting in college

College students can vote in the jurisdiction that they consider to be their residence. If that's at their parents' house, they must vote there. Or, if a college student considers his school address to be his residence, the college student must make sure that his registration reflects that address. Then, he or she can vote in the county where the school is located.

Participating in the primary

A voter who is registered with a political party may only participate in that party’s primary.

Unaffiliated? You can vote in the primaries, too. Unaffiliated voters can participate in the primary of any recognized party. This year, that includes Democrat, Libertarian and Republican parties. Unaffiliated voters can pick a different party's primary in which to participate each year.

The deadline has passed to change party affiliation.

Starting next year, the Green Party will be eligible for primaries.

How to vote

On Election Day, you must vote at the location in your precinct. That site is listed on your voter registration card and is likely to be different from your early voting site.

Neither your registration card nor any form of identification is typically required to vote. Every registered voter also has the option of mailing-in an absentee ballot. More information on that on the state board's website.

To see what your ballot will look like, go to the state board's website.

Specht: 919-829-4870 @AndySpecht
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