Photo of street art by artist Shepard Fairey, depicting a stylized ballot box and the word Vote

Elections 2020: A Quick and Easy Guide for LGBTQ Voters

This fall’s elections are just around the corner. No. Scratch that. They’re happening now. What? This early?! It’s only September!

In a normal year, most people’s attention wouldn’t turn to voting until at least the beginning of early voting in October. But, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, there’s been a whopping increase in the number of people requesting mail-in absentee ballots.

Last Friday, the North Carolina Board of Elections began mailing absentee ballots to 640,000 voters across the state. In 2016, just a fraction of that total — only 231,000 — were sent to voters. So, that means a significant portion of voters in this November’s elections are voting now, or relatively soon.

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! And you can follow the same process if you need to update your voter registration.

There are four ways to get registered or make updates to your voter registration: online, in-person at your local county board of elections, via mail or, during in-person early voting.

Statewide resource NCVoter.org has an awesome guide on these three easy ways to register or update your voter registration.

Important Deadlines to Remember: The deadline to register to vote online, in-person, or by mail is 5 p.m. on Friday, October 9. If you miss that deadline, you can register or make updates during in-person early voting, Oct. 15-31. You cannot register to vote or make updates on Election Day itself.

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.

Again, NCVoter.org is your essential guide for mail-in voting.

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.

Early voting hours and days may vary from location to location, and those details are still being finalized by county election officials. But you can click here now to view all 33 early voting locations in Mecklenburg County via the state board of election’s website. (Be sure to choose Mecklenburg County in the drop-down menu!)

Be sure to stay up to date on early voting locations and hours by checking the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, which will be updated with current information once it is finalized. We’ll also post the update here on this article!

Protecting yourself and protecting your vote

COVID-19 Precautions
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…

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.


GET INVOLVED!

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 media@charlottepride.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.