Elections 2020: A Quick and Easy Guide for LGBTQ Voters
(UPDATED, October 14, 2020: We’ve updated this article’s information on in-person early voting and voter registration.)
There are only just a few short weeks left to cast your vote and help shape the direction of our local community, state, and nation.
Voting this year began early. In September, North Carolina voters were able to start requesting mail-in absentee ballots. And, whew, did we. As of October 14, more than 1.3 million people have requested mail-in ballots, and more than 540,000 have already been returned!
That doesn’t even count in-person early voting numbers, which begins October 15 and runs through October 31.
If you haven’t yet thought about how to vote, where to vote, or who to vote for, now’s the time.
Charlotte Pride believes in the power and importance of every person’s active involvement in civic and social affairs, and one of the key ways you can be involved is through voting. By casting your ballot, you join millions of others in helping determine who leads our government and — critically for LGBTQ people, Black people, people of color, and other marginalized groups — what government policies and practices will be put into place to either help or hurt us.
So, we’ve put together this quick and easy guide to get voters in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County get started on their plan to vote this fall.
Check your voter registration
It’s always a good idea to check your voter registration before each election. If you’ve moved recently, maybe you’ve forgotten to update your address. Or, perhaps you’ve forgotten your polling location — the local space near your home where you can cast your ballot on Election Day this year.
To check your voter registration, just click here search your name on the state board of elections website.
Get registered or make updates
Need to register to vote? That’s easy, too! But if you missed the October 9 deadline to register in advance of the election, you’ll now have to do that in-person at an in-person early voting location. In-person voting runs Oct. 15-31, and there are 33 sites across Mecklenburg County. You can also update your voter registration — if, for instance, you’ve recently moved or changed your name — at an in-person early voting site. Scroll down to our section on early voting for more information. And you can follow the same process if you need to update your voter registration.
How to Vote by Mail
Many people choose to vote in-person on Election Day itself, but more and more people are opting to avoid in-person voting due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
You can now apply online to receive a mail-in absentee ballot. Nearly three quarters of a million North Carolina voters have already chosen to do just that! But, be careful. Voting by mail is safe and secure — and your ballot will be counted — but you must follow the guidelines and regulations set out for completing and submitting your mail-in ballot.
Important Deadlines to Remember: You must request your mail-in ballot no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27, and then you must submit your mail-in ballot no later than 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3. Because of the large increase in the number of ballot requests, election officials are encouraging voters to request and submit their mail-in ballots as soon as possible, and not wait until the deadlines.
How to Vote Early
If you don’t want to go through the process of requesting and submitting a mail-in ballot, you can vote in-person during early voting. In most years, early voting sites are less crowded with fewer people and shorter lines than on Election Day.
In Mecklenburg County, you’ll be able to choose from 33 different early voting locations across the county. Because of the pandemic, some really big spaces are opening up as early voting locations, including Bank of America Stadium, the Bojangles Entertainment Complex, and the Spectrum Center.
In-person early voting runs from October 15th through October 31st.
Protecting yourself and protecting your vote
This year, many of us are concerned about COVID-19 and the risk of exposure if we vote in-person. That’s why so many people are opting to vote by mail. However, if you plan to vote in-person and don’t have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) like a face mask, gloves, or hand sanitizer, you can request a free PPE from the Voter Safety Protection Campaign, a coalition of statewide groups, including the North Carolina Black Alliance, Equality North Carolina and Disability Rights North Carolina. If you vote in-person this year, as you would any time you’re in public, be sure to wear your mask and other PPE, maintain 6 feet of separation between you and others, and follow all other safety measures in the polling location.
Is photo ID required?
This is a common question and concern for those who lack proper and official photo identification, as well as for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. But there’s great news: Photo ID is not required in North Carolina!
Recently incarcerated individuals and others
Many people think that because they’ve committed a crime, then they can’t vote. That’s not necessarily true. If you’ve been recently incarcerated or have other questions about voting rights, see this quick primer for NCVoter.org.
Who do I vote for?
Well, that’s a question for you really. It’s your vote, so you get to use it how you see fit. Plus, Charlotte Pride is officially nonpartisan, so we don’t and can’t tell you who to vote for. But, many of our community members often rely on a number of resources to help them get educated about candidates. And this year, there’s plenty of them! In Mecklenburg County alone, almost 40 different races will be on the ballot. So it’s best to get started now with some research on who the candidates are, their positions, and how you think you might vote.
Here are some often used resources by local and LGBTQ voters…
- North Carolina Voter Guide — A statewide nonpartisan voter guide with profiles of all candidates on the ballot. Currently, a statewide version with statewide candidates is currently available, with localized versions coming soon.
- Charlotte Agenda’s 2020 Voter Guide — Including a rundown of all the candidates on Mecklenburg County ballots, including judges’ races.
- Equality North Carolina’s 2020 North Carolina Endorsements — Statewide list of endorsed candidates running for a variety of offices, including state legislature, Council of State, judicial races, and local races (Don’t know what federal, state, or local districts you live in? That’s where looking up your voter registration comes in handy! Those districts will be listed there!)
- Equality NC PAC’s website — With region-specific voter guides and candidate spotlights
- Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 North Carolina Endorsements – Federal — Statewide list of endorsed candidates running for federal offices including U.S. Senate and House races
- Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 North Carolina Endorsements – State — Statewide list of endorsed candidates in state House and Senate races
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus — General election endorsements in federal, state, and local races
How can I learn more about the elections?
If you want to keep following news and information about this fall’s elections, you have plenty of resources at your disposal.
Be sure to keep NCVoter.org and NCVoterGuide.org in your bookmarks. These two statewide resources offer awesome nonpartisan and fact-based information on voting rules and regulations, as well as links to a variety of resources.
There are also several local news outlets that offer regular and continued coverage of in-depth election news throughout the election season. Below are links to some of our favorite outlets’ election-specific pages on their websites, or to their front-page if they don’t have an election-specific portal:
Featured Image: A photo of street artist Shepard Fairey’s “Vote!” posters plastered on a wall in San Francisco. Photo by Michael Pittman, via Flickr. Licensed Creative Commons.
Don’t forget: Charlotte Pride is truly 365! There are several ways you can get involved in the work we do throughout the year. Check out our recent blog post on ways to get involved this fall and throughout the year!
Want to get involved specifically with our increasing online content and blog coverage? We are looking to increase our online news, commentary, and community features on the Charlotte Pride Blog, as part of our continued digital programming through the fall. Are you a freelancer, commentator, essayist, or other writer and want to contribute? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to chat about opportunities to contribute! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and bookmark our website’s news section to get the latest updates.