Table of Contents
I. What Is a Voter List Maintenance?
When a state or county conducts a process to systematically remove people from its list of registered voters, this is called “voter list maintenance.” When done properly, these programs can increase the accuracy of voter rolls by removing people who pass away, no longer live in the state, or have become ineligible for other reasons. However, overly aggressive removal of voters has also can disenfranchise eligible voters.
Wrongful voter registration termination undermines the right to vote and may target and disproportionately impact voters of color, low-income voters, young people, and voters with disabilities. Wrongful purges can impact election results, especially in state and local elections decided by a small number of votes.
Many voters do not find out they were removed from the voter rolls until they are trying to cast their ballot. At that point, it can be too late to fix the problem. This toolkit helps advocates and local leaders:
- Understand how and when Boards of Elections conduct voter list maintenance and update the voter rolls;
- Spot and get ahead of wrongful removals; and
- Report and fight wrongful removals.
II. How Lawful Voter List Maintenance Works
Who Can Be Removed
While the focus of this toolkit is on wrongful removals, there are a few situations in which voters can legally be removed from the voter rolls. This is not a wrongful removal, just regular list maintenance.
The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) is a federal law that limits when and why a state or county can remove someone from the voter rolls. The NVRA allows states and counties to remove a registered voter when:
- the voter has requested removal;
- the voter has died;
- the voter has moved out of the voting jurisdiction (i.e., to another county or state);
- the voter has a disqualifying criminal conviction or adjudication of mental incapacity that requires removal under state law; or
- the voter does not respond to an address confirmation notice from their election official and does not vote during the time period that includes the next two federal general elections.
Under the NVRA, states can’t:
- systematically remove voters within 90 days of a federal primary; or
- systematically remove voters within 90 days of a general election.
This 90-day prohibition on the systematic removal of voters includes actions that would be legal if conducted further out from the election, including:
- removing inactive voters;
- moving people to inactive status; or
- removing people based on large scale, third-party challenges to registered voters.
In North Carolina, voters who request removal, have died, are serving a sentence for a felony conviction, or have moved out of the jurisdiction and filed a Change of Address with the U.S. Postal Service are removed from the voter rolls on a rolling basis. In addition, in the odd years following statewide general elections (e.g., 2021, 2023), the State Board of Elections (NCSBE) oversees a “no-contact” list maintenance program where county Boards of Elections (CBEs) remove some “inactive” voters from the voter rolls.
What is an inactive voter?
There are two ways voters become “inactive” in North Carolina:
- When a voter does not cast their ballot or otherwise have contact with their CBE during a period spanning two statewide elections, the CBE will send the voter a forwardable confirmation mailing. If the voter fails to respond to the mailing within 30 days, the voter will be placed on inactive status.
- A voter can also be placed on inactive status if mail sent by the CBE is returned as undeliverable and the voter does not respond to a subsequent forwardable confirmation mailing within 30 days.
IMPORTANT: “Inactive” voters can still vote! But if they do not vote or have some other contact with their CBE during the period spanning two statewide general elections, they will be removed during the state’s biennial “no contact” list maintenance program, which generally happens in the first quarter of every odd year.
North Carolina is expected to become a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) in 2023, which will allow North Carolina to compare its list of registered voters with those of other states and identify individuals who may have moved and registered in their new state. Updates to North Carolina’s list maintenance process are expected in 2023.
Make Sure you are Registered
Check your voter registration using voter search, the State Board of Elections Look Up tool.
How to make sure you can vote
Voter Registration Deadline
In 2023, there are three different voter registration deadlines, depending on the municipal election date. In North Carolina, the civilian voter registration deadline is 25 days before Election Day.
- The voter registration deadline is August 18, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on September 12, 2023.
- The voter registration deadline is September 15, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on October 10, 2023.
- The voter registration deadline is October 13, 2023, for municipal elections taking place on November 7, 2023.
2023 Municipal Election Lookup Tool
View the NC Board of Elections lookup tool to see local elections for your county.
You can register online or using a paper form
Instructions to Register to Vote
Option 1: Register Online
Online Voter Registration is available now through the NC DMV website to any eligible voter with a North Carolina driver’s license or DMV -issued ID card.
To register online, follow these five steps:
- Step One: Visit payments.ncdot.gov
- Step Two: Select the “Continue to myNCDMV Services” button on left.
- Step Three: Select the last option to “Continue as Guest” (you do not need to create an account).
- Step Four: Click “Submit a Voter Registration Application.”
- Enter your North Carolina Driver’s License or DMV-issued ID Card number, Social Security number (SSN), and date of birth.
- You can register to vote, update your address, or change party affiliation. Updated information ONLY applies to your voter registration, not your ID — meaning you can register to vote at your current residence and it does not need to match the address on your current ID.
NOTE! The online platform does not allow users to make a name change.
Option 2: Register with a Paper Form
- Step One: Obtain a Voter Registration Form by downloading it here in English or ESPANŌL or visit your County Board of Elections during regular business hours to obtain one.
- Step Two: Complete the form and review it carefully. Be sure to:
- Sign and date it.
- Fill in all the questions and check all the appropriate boxes.
- Include your date of birth.
- Include a phone number on the form; it’s used by election officials to call you for missing information.
- Spell out your name as it appears on the identity document whose number you provide in Section 3.
- If you do not give your NC driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of your Social Security number, be sure to provide the documents requested on the form, or be prepared to show one of those documents when you first vote in person.
- Step Three: Submit the form in person (during regular business hours) or by mail to your County Board of Elections at least 25 days before the election you want to vote in.
REMEMBER! You must submit the form at least 25 days before the election you want to vote in. If you don’t make this deadline, you should use Same-Day Registration during Early Voting (see below).