What NC college students need to be ready for elections this fall

A guide to everything North Carolina college students need to know to register to vote & get ready for elections when they get back to campus in fall 2023.

Katie Craig

State Director, NCPIRG Education Fund

Moving off to college for the first time or getting back to campus after a long summer can be a busy time for students. From making new friends, to figuring out where your classes are for the semester, there can be a lot on your to do list. But one important thing students should make sure is on their checklist is getting ready for fall elections in their communities. 

Students are vital parts of the communities they live in and local elections can have a big impact on the issues they care about. From deciding the city budget and funding for programs like affordable housing initiatives, to overseeing local police departments, to even setting local taxes and deciding public transportation routes, there are a plethora of issues that affect students and their communities.

As first time voters, voter registration can seem daunting, but it’s simpler than it first appears. The process is outlined below:

Step 1: Register to Vote

Students moving to campus for the first time and wishing to register to vote on campus, as well as students moving to a new dorm or apartment, must register to vote or update their voter registration. 

To register to vote or update your voter registration, go to https://ncstudentvote.org now. The deadline to register to vote is 25 days before Election Day. That means the deadlines this fall will be: 

  • August 18, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on September 12, 2023.
  • September 15, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on October 10, 2023.
  • October 13, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on November 7, 2023.

Voter Registration FAQs

I'm not sure if I am already registered to vote at my current address. How can I check?

To check if you are registered at your current address look up your voter registration here: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup/.

Should I register at home or on campus?

Students have the option to register to vote either in their hometown or on-campus. 

Some students may choose to register to vote in their hometown because they feel more connected to that community. If you register to vote at home, you will either have to mail in your ballot or go home to vote during early voting or on election day. 

Many students will choose to register and vote at their campus address. After all, you do live in your college town at least 9 months out of the year, plus it’s often more convenient for many students to vote on campus. 

What do I need to register to vote?

In-state students with a valid signature on file at the DMV will be able to register completely online. All you need is your North Carolina Driver License or DMV-issued ID Card number, Social Security number (SSN), and date of birth. Register online now at https://ncstudentvote.org

Out-of- State students or students without a North Carolina ID or signature on file at the DMV must print and return your voter registration form to the state or county board of elections office either by mail or dropping off in person. You can pre-fill and print your form at https://ncstudentvote.org/.

How do I know if my registration was processed?

Within a few weeks of registering to vote you should receive a voter registration card in the mail confirming your registration. Additionally, you can check your voter registration file online at: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/reglkup/.

 If you do not receive the card in the mail or see your file update online, you should call the county board of elections to see if they received your form and if there were any issues.

If I just moved from one on-campus address to another do I still need to re-register?

Yes! If you have moved at all since you last registered and voted, you will need to update your voter registration. Even moving across the street can at times affect what candidates you’ll be voting for, especially in local elections. 

Step 2: Check what elections are happening in your area

Once you are registered to vote, the next step is to begin researching when and where elections are happening in your area. This fall most (but not all) municipalities will be holding local elections including races for positions such as city councilors, county commissioners, town sheriff, school board members, and more. 
Check out when and where elections are happening near you by clicking your county on the map below: 

(map brought to you by the NC State Board of Elections, can also be found here)

Once you know what elections are happening in your area, you can also find more information through:

Step 3: Finding your polling locations & hours

When getting ready to cast your ballot, you will have three ways to vote: Early, on Election Day, or by mail.

Early voting will take place October 19th- November 4th at 3PM for local elections held in November (Or September 21st- October 7th for October elections). During early voting you can go to any one-stop polling site in your county. Same day registration is also available during early voting to update or register to vote if you missed the deadline, you’ll just need to bring proof of residence. 

Look up early voting sites in your county here. 

If you vote on Election Day, you must vote at your assigned Election Day polling site. Same day registration is not available on Election Day. Look up your polling assigned election day site here.  

Lastly, vote by mail is not permitted in all municipal elections, but for those where it is available you can follow these instructions for how to request and return an absentee ballot.

Step 4: What to bring to the polls 

The last step is make sure you have what you’ll need at the polls. So grab a friend, your voting research, and an acceptable ID and get ready to go vote!

Voter ID requirements will go into place this fall as the result of a recent NC supreme court ruling.  On many campuses, your student ID card may be used as an Voter ID for the 2023 elections (full list below). Other acceptable forms of ID include a North Carolina Driver’s License or State ID, a U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport card, Military or Tribal ID cards, and several others (see full list of acceptable ID’s here). 

Voter ID FAQs

Is my campus ID an approved ID?

The following campuses’ student IDs are approved to be used as Voter IDs in the 2023 fall elections:

  • Appalachian State University
  • Bennet College
  • Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute
  • Cape Fear Community College
  • Cleveland Community College 
  • College of Albemarle 
  • Davidson College 
  • Duke University- Duke Student Voter ID Card 
  • Durham Tech Community College
  • East Carolina University 
  • Elizabeth City State University
  • Elon University 
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Halifax Community College 
  • Isothermal Community College 
  • Johnson C. Smith University 
  • Lees-McRae College 
  • Lenoir-Rhyne University
  • Livingstone College
  • Mars Hills University
  • McDowell Technical Community College 
  • Meredith College 
  • Methodist University
  • Mid-Atlantic Christian University 
  • NC Agricultural & Technical University 
  • North Carolina Central University 
  • North Carolina State University 
  • Pfeiffer University 
  • Queens University of Charlotte 
  • Robeson Community College 
  • Rowan-CAbarrus Community College 
  • Shaw University 
  • St. Andrews University 
  • Saint Augustine’s College 
  • UNC Asheville 
  • UNC Chapel Hill 
  • UNC Charlotte  (Physical ID card) 
  • UNC Greensboro
  • UNC Pembroke 
  • UNC Wilmington 
  • Wake Forest University 
  • Warren Wilson College 
  • Western Carolina University 
  • Wingate University 
  • Winston-Salem State University
I don’t have an acceptable ID, what should I do?
  • Get a free ID before election day: If you are registered to vote and do not have an acceptable identification card already, you may go to either your county board of elections office or an N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) office to get a free ID. 
  • Cast a provisional ballot if you do not have an ID by election day: According to the State Board of Elections “if a voter casting a ballot at the voting site does not provide an acceptable ID, the voter may fill out a Photo ID Exception Form and vote a provisional ballot, or vote a provisional ballot and bring an acceptable ID to the county board of elections office by the day before the county canvass (which is typically 10 days after elections in even-numbered years and seven days after elections in odd-numbered years).”

This guide is brought to you by the Carolina Youth Partnership. Check out our site for more information about voting on campus and how you can get involved in civic engagement and social change efforts on your campus.

CYP | Used by permission

Katie Craig

State Director, NCPIRG Education Fund

Katie directs NCPIRG's statewide campaign strategy, organizational development, research, communication and legislative advocacy efforts. Katie was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, and continues to live there now. When she’s not working, Katie enjoys traveling and spending time with friends and family.