Get ready – Here come the May 17 primaries

Get ready – Here come the May 17 primaries
March 31
07:17 2022

By Howard Pearre

If you’re a voter, hats off to you! Many of your fellow citizens won’t even bother to show up on primary day, May 17, to perform their civic responsibility.

But voting is not just a one-day deal. There’s work to do now:

Check Your Status

Check your status in the Forsyth County Board of Elections database. Google NC VOTER LOOKUP, select VOTER SEARCH, and enter your name to make sure your status is “active” and your address current. If you are listed as “inactive” or not listed at all, you will need to submit a new Voter Registration Application to the board of elections. The same applies if your address is not current, including an apartment number.

If you have moved since the last election, even across the street, you may have a new polling place and different ballot. If you show up at the voting place for your new address without having updated your registration, you will have to cast a provisional ballot.

There are several ways to re-register 

Option 1: You can get a registration form from the Forsyth Board of Elections. Complete it in black ink, including your old addresses if you have moved. You can also download and print a form from the Forsyth or NC Board of Elections website. Or, you can go to the Forsyth Public Library and ask to have one printed for you. Hand carry or mail it to the board of elections. You must do this at least 25 days before election day—April 22 for the upcoming primary.

Option 2: If you miss the 25-day deadline, you can go to any of the Forsyth County early voting sites and complete a voter registration form. To make an update (or register for the first time) and vote at the same time, you will need documentation with your name and new address. An N.C. driver’s license, utility bill, or bank statement are examples of acceptable documents. However, you cannot change your party affiliation at an early voting site.

Option 3: You can register online if you have an N.C. driver’s license. The Division of Motor Vehicles website can be used to update your voter registration or register for the first time. Google REGISTER TO VOTE NC ONLINE, click OFFICIAL NCDMV VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION, and follow the links to use this free service.   (Tip: at the login screen, click “Continue as Guest.”)

Early Voting 

Select an early-voting site. You can vote at any of the six sites in the county regardless of your assigned polling place. (On election day, May 17, you can only vote at your precinct.) Early-voting sites are scheduled for April 28-29 and from May 2-May 14. Weekday hours will be from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday hours will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; hours on Sunday, May 8, will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (See early-voting schedule for sites.)

Absentee Ballots

If you plan to cast an absentee ballot, send in a N.C. Absentee Ballot Request Form as soon as possible. Google NC ABSENTEE BALLOT and click on N.C. ABSENTEE BALLOT PORTAL for instructions and links to make your request online or to print out a request. Ballots will be sent out to voters who have requested them starting March 28 and must be returned to the Forsyth County Board of Elections on Tuesday, May 10, no later than 5 p.m.

Sample Ballots

Review a sample ballot to become knowledgeable of the candidates in the races. Google NC VOTER LOOKUP, select VOTER SEARCH, and enter your name to find your personal voter information. Click on SAMPLE BALLOTS to see a list of candidates for races in your specific precinct. To see a list of all candidates for all of the primary races in Forsyth County, Google FORSYTH COUNTY NC BOE and click on LIST OF CANDIDATES. 

Research Candidates

Research the candidates, including the “down ballot” candidates. While the media will provide information and advertising about the major races, the elected “down-ballot” candidates will have far more direct impact on our daily lives – where to put bus stop shelters, expanding Medicaid, support for volunteer fire departments, the content of textbooks, trash pickup routes, sidewalk repairs, environmental laws, public education funding, teacher pay, and deciding state and property taxes among myriad other issues.

One set of “down ballot” races will require particular scrutiny. The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board race has attracted 28 candidates for the nine seats. Ten Democrats, 16 Republicans, and one Libertarian are running for the District 1, District 2, and “At-Large” seats. Of the nine current board members, only four are seeking reelection.

In addition to candidates’ webpages, two other excellent resources that provide unbiased information are VOTE411.ORG from the League of Women Voters, and BALLOTPEDIA.ORG.  In addition to comparative information about candidates, the Ballotpedia resource also provides data about campaign contributions and spending.  

Redistricting may have changed your precinct or polling place. The board of elections is sending out letters now and you should receive a new voter registration card with any changes soon. Don’t rely on “I’ve always voted here.” Take the time to check your voter registration. Exercise your right to vote.

Howard Pearre retired after a career as a counselor and manager with N.C. Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He has led training workshops on voter registration and is a board member with Winston-Salem Writers.

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