Code Section
North Carolina > Elections And Election Laws > Qualifying to Vote (§ § 163-54 through 163-90.3) Article 7A. Registration of Voters (§ § 163-82.1 through 163-83)

§ 163-82.1. General principles of voter registration.

Overview of Statute

Section stipulates the requirements for voter registration approval.


(a) Prerequisite to Voting.–No person shall be permitted to vote who has not been registered under the provisions of this Article or registered as previously provided by law.

(b) County Board’s Duty to Register.–A county board of elections shall register, in accordance with this Article, every person qualified to vote in that county who makes an application in accordance with this Article.

(c) Permanent Registration.–Every person registered to vote by a county board of elections in accordance with this Article shall remain registered until:

(1) The registrant requests in writing to the county board of elections to be removed from the list of registered voters; or

(2) The registrant becomes disqualified through death, conviction of a felony, or removal out of the county; or

(3) The county board of elections determines, through the procedure outlined in G.S. 163-82.14, that it can no longer confirm where the voter resides. (1953, c. 843; 1955, c. 800; 1963, c. 303, s. 1; 1965, c. 1116, s. 1; 1967, c. 775, s. 1; 1973, c. 793, s. 25; 1975, c. 395; 1981, c. 39, s. 1; c. 87, s. 1; c. 308, s. 1; 1985, c. 211, ss. 1, 2; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 762, s. 2; 2009-541, s. 7(a); 2013-381, s. 12.1(a); 2017-6, s. 3; S.L. 2018-146, s. 3.1(a), (b).)


Editors’ Notes

The repeal of subsec. (d) of this section, then § 163-82.1, by S.L. 2013-381, § 12.1(a), was enjoined by order dated July 29, 2016 in North Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, 831.F.3d 204, with the provision in effect prior to amendment by S.L. 2013-381, § 12.1(a), to be in full force. Prior to being repealed by S.L. 2013-381, subsec. (d) read:

“(d) Preregistration.–A person who is at least 16 years of age but will not be 18 years of age by the date of the next election and who is otherwise qualified to register may preregister to vote and shall be automatically registered upon reaching the age of eligibility following verification of the person’s qualifications and address in accordance with G.S. 163-82.7.”

Definition [board]

The term “board” means the State Board with respect to all candidates for State, legislative, and judicial offices and the county board of elections with respect to all candidates for county and municipal offices. The term means the State Board with respect to all statewide referenda and the county board of elections conducting all local referenda.

§ 163A-1411 (3). Definitions.





Definition [Board]

Board. – Any State board, commission, council, committee, task force,
authority, or similar public body, however denominated, created by statute or
executive order, as determined and designated by the State Board, except for
those public bodies that have only advisory authority.

§ 163A-152 (3). Definitions

Definition [State]

“State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

§ 163A-1336 (5). Definitions.

Definition [person]

The term “person” means any business entity, corporation, insurance company, labor union, or professional association.

§ 163A-1411 (72). Definitions.

Definition [election]

The term “election” means any general or special election, a first or second primary, a run-off election, or an election to fill a vacancy. The term “election” shall not include any local or statewide referendum.

§ 163A-1411 (30). Definitions.

Definition [Election]

“Election” means the event in which voters cast votes in ballot items concerning proposals or candidates for office in this State or the United States. The term includes primaries, general elections, referenda, and special elections.

§ 163A-1095 (4). Definition


North Carolina Cases

Case Name: People ex rel. Van Bokkelen v. Canaday

Citation: 73 N.C. 198

Year: 1875

Case URL:

Case Summary: The general assembly has no power to change the qualifications of voters in state, county, township, city or town elections, therefore the amendment changing the requisite days of residence is unconstitutional and void. Furthermore the 1875 amendment regulating the election of aldermen is unconstitutional as it violates the fundamental principle of the state constitution, that representation shall be apportioned to the popular vote. Cities and towns, including counties and townships, are within the state and organized for the convenience of local self-government. Therefore, the qualifications of voters are the same as they need be at least 21 years of age, 12 months' residence in the state and 30 days in the city or town.

Case Name: State ex rel. Quinn v. Lattimore

Citation: 120 N.C. 426

Year: 1897

Case PDF: State ex rel. Quinn v. Lattimore

Case Summary: Qualified voters, under Const. Art. 6, § 1, shall not be deprived of their right to vote because the registrar failed to administer to them the required oath before registration. The votes of unsworn registered voters should not have been rejected as there was no evidence of bad faith when they voted in townships other than those in which they resided. Additionally, a vote cast by a qualified voter and who took the required oath, but whose name through negligence of the registrar was not entered on the registry list, should be counted. Voters, otherwise legally qualified, who were refused registry because they had not been a resident of the state for one year shall be permitted to register on election day and vote. However, if a voter when answering registration questions only provides the state, omitting specific county county information, shall be insufficient for purposes of registration.

Case Name: State ex rel. Harris v. Scarborough

Citation: 14 S.E. 737

Year: 1892

Case PDF: State ex rel. Harris v. Scarborough

Case Summary: The onus is passed to the voter to make registration answers as specific as required for registration purposes, and the register need only ask the questions required by law. In other words, this challenge is sufficient only if the did, or offered to do, all that the law required and his failure to be registered was the fault of the registration officer. Without evidence to the contrary, it shall be presumed the registration officer had performed his duty. However, if a voter offers to comply with reasonable regulation governing his registration, and is prevented from compliance by the wrongful act of a registrar, his vote should be counted. If voters live near an indefinite line between two townships and registered in the township which they did not reside but showed they were taxed, sent their children to school, and previously voted in such township, then their votes shall be counted without evidence to sustain a finding of bad faith. Pursuant to Const. Art. 6, §§ 1, 2, the legislature had the power to enact laws which reasonably required that "no registration shall be valid unless it specifies, as near as may be, the age, occupation, place of birth, place of residence of the elector, as well as the township or county from whence the elector has removed, in event of removal, and the full name by which the voter is known" (Laws 1889, c. 287, § 3).

Case Name: Gibson v. Bd. of Com’rs of Scotland County

Citation: 163 N.C. 510

Year: 1913

Case PDF: Gibson v. Board of Commissioners

Case Summary: The election was deemed valid as the registrar's failure to administer an oath to the electors was not a sufficient basis for depriving the electors of their right to vote.

Case Name: State v. Nicholson

Citation: 9 S.E. 545

Year: 1889

Case PDF: State v. Nicholson

Case Summary: It is presumed the oath is taken with an uplifted hand for persons who have conscientious scruples against swearing upon the “holy evangelists.” Even if such scruples in fact exist or not is immaterial in determining whether the form of oath was in compliance with statutory mandates. Furthermore, the oath which states “and laws of the United States” is to be read to include all valid laws, whether state or national, and therefore included by implication. The fact that the registration book was not kept open for the prescribed time on the Saturday before the election cannot invalidate the election where it appears that the book was left open until 2 o’clock p.m. and no person was denied an opportunity to examine it. Nor does a disregard of constitutional or statutory directions relating to the registration of electors invalidate the vote cast so long as such disregard does not affect the result as an expression of popular will.

Case Name: McDowell v. Rutherford Ry. Const. Co.

Citation: 2 S.E. 351

Year: 1887

Case PDF: McDowell v. Rutherford Ry. Construction Co.

Case Summary: Upon Plaintiff appeal of the Rutherford trial court's denial to stay an injunction and vacate the injunction pending against the Defendant, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court. The court held the evidence tended strongly to prove the material allegations of the Plaintiff and the lower court should have granted an injunction as prayed for. Specifically, the court held if the opportunity of registering and thus becoming a qualified voter is withheld or denied due to to eligible persons, either by accident or inadvertence, would vitiate an election especially if it would materially affect the result of the same. The court found error in the lower court's interpretation of the phrase "qualified voters" such that the county commissioners' action in ascertaining and declaring the results of the election could have been contested in an action brought directly for that purpose. However, an entry and order made by the board concerning a matter submitted to the majority of qualified voters at an election is nonetheless not an adjudication of fact which can be contested in a proceeding brought for the purpose of measuring favoritism to railroads under the courts definition of "qualified voters."

Out-of-State Cases

Federal Cases

Case Name: North Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory

Citation: 997 F.Supp.2d 322

Federal Circuit Court: 4th Circuit Court

Year: 2014

Case PDF: NAACPvMcCrory

Case Summary: Various civil rights organizations failed to make clear showing that they were likely to be irreparably harmed by the North Carolina omnibus election reform law provisions calling for increased poll observers, allowing voters to challenge ballots, eliminating discretion to keep polls open, and precluding preliminary injunction to enjoin implementation of these provisions on their equal protection and twenty-sixth amendment challenges. Specifically the voters brought challenge to early registration cutoff under the Anderson-Burdick balancing test, as it applies to state election procedures. Under thus judicial precedent, the court held no matter how slight the voters burden may appear, it must be justified by relevant and legitimate state interests need sufficient weight to justify the limitation. Here the slight burden imposed by the 25-day cut-off is more than justified by the State's important interest in detecting fraud and ensuring that only properly verified voters have their votes counted at the canvass. Therefore, the Plaintiff's concerns regarding election threats to voting rights did not support a conclusion that additional poll observers and additional measures needed to be taken by the State Board of Elections and their motion to preliminarily enjoin SL 2013-381's elimination of SDR on such basis shall be denied. The United States, various African-American individuals, churches, and civil rights organizations failed to meet their burden in showing of discriminatory intent and thus will not succeed on the merits of their claim that North Carolina omnibus election law provision which eliminated out-of-precinct provisional voting violated the Voting Rights Act (VRA) section prohibiting race or color-based qualifications or prerequisites for voting. Nor did individual young voters present sufficient evidence that they were likely to suffer irreparable harm before trial pursuant to their Twenty-Sixth Amendment challenge to North Carolina’s omnibus election provision as any 17-year-old who would be 18 by election day was able to register even under the challenged provision. Further challenges that the provision eliminating the pre-registration program of 16- and 17-year-olds did not discriminate against young voters nor place targeted hardship on grounds that they would have to expend greater resources to vote, thus was not sufficiently particularized to confer standing as any of the state's 6.5 million registered voters would have had standing to such challenge. Accordingly, without evidence of financial harm or a direct legally congnizable injury, the group of young voters failed to allege a sufficient claim under the Twenty-Sixth Amendment challenges. In conclusion, the manner of proceedings in North Carolina's General Assembly leading up to enactment of an omnibus election reform act provision eliminating same-day registration did not raise strong inferences of discriminatory intent required to support these challenges asserted by the United States and various African-American individuals, churches, and civil rights organizations under the Voting Rights Act which prohibits race- or color-based qualifications or prerequisites for voting.

Case Name: League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. North Carolina

Citation: 769 F.3d 224

Federal Circuit Court: 4th Circuit Court

Year: 2014

Case PDF: League of Women Voters of N.C. v. State

Case Summary: District court did not abuse its discretion, in action challenging North Carolina laws permitting the chairs of each county party to designate 10 additional at-large poll observers and permitting any registered voter to challenge the ballot on Election Day. Challengers (United States, individuals, churches, and civil rights organizations) were likely to succeed on merits of their claims that North Carolina's elimination of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting violated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act and thus were entitled to preliminary injunction barring its implementation in the upcoming election.

Regulations & Guidance

Attorney General Opinions

  • 53 Op.Atty.Gen. 65, Goodwyn, Feb. 24, 1984 A registration official's authority does not extend beyond that official's county of appointment and thus are not authorized to register voters when they are geographically outside the boundaries of the counties in which they are appointed to serve.