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Petitions in North Carolina

A petition is a formal written request, signed by citizens affected by or having an opinion on the issue in question. In North Carolina, petitions can be used to place candidates and issues on the ballot, waive filing fees, or form state-recognized political parties.

Before beginning the petition process, familiarize yourself with the laws governing the specific type of petition you aim to conduct. Further familiarization with general provisions pertaining to all petitions in North Carolina is recommended as well. This page reviews the petition process and provides the applicable laws, due dates, forms, and petition sheets. The petition sheets provided must be used to collect signatures. Signatures cannot be collected electronically. Blanks at the top of each petition sheet must be completed before collecting any signatures.


For information, and to check the status of petitions initiated locally with a county Board of Elections office, contact that elections office directly. Contact information for county Boards of Election can be found here.

To check the status of petitions initiated with the State Board of Elections office, click here.

Some petitions require signatures equal to a percentage of registered voters at the end of the year. These statistics can be found on our End-Of-Year Snapshot page.

 

Instructions for Filing Petitions

  1. Do not derail your own petition. Check the fact sheets provided for the type of petition you wish to pursue1. Do not hesitate to ask questions.
  2. First Step - Jurisdiction. Determine whether your petition addresses a contest that takes place only in a single county (which means you will be working with the appropriate county board of elections) or whether your petition will affect multiple counties or the entire state (in which case you will be working with both county and state boards of election.) In rare instances, a petition (such as for Sanitary or Fire Districts) will be submitted to a different reviewing authority. If you are uncertain, please ask!
  3. Second step - Complete a petition request form. Completion of this form helps ensure that your petition drive will be conducted correctly and that the petition itself will be processed efficiently.
    •   With the exception of unaffiliated judicial petitions2, a petition that affects a contest contained within the boundaries of a single county will be handled only by that county; you should therefore submit this request form directly to that county. Use this link to access a directory for county boards of election.
    •   If the petition affects a contest that crosses county lines or affects the entire state, please submit the petition request form to the State Board of Election at this email address: petition.sboe@ncsbe.gov.
  4. Collect signatures. If you use the recommended signature collection forms appropriate to your type of petition (available from your county board of elections or the State Board of Elections), you simplify the process for yourself, the signers, and staff who must verify signatures. You will be gathering the signatures of qualified voters who reside in the applicable county or counties. Remember:
    •   You must separate signature pages by county (if more than one county is involved). This is crucial, since the county board of elections for the affected county or counties will have to verify the signatures. A county is only able to verify signatures of voters within that county.
    •   No one may sign a petition on behalf of another person
    •   Signatures must be originals (please use INK); no electronically reproduced signatures will be counted. (Photocopies of signed forms are not accepted by county or state elections offices.)
  5. Submit signatures for verification. Signature pages for petitions that affect more than one county have to be submitted FIRST to those county boards of election by a certain deadline so that staff may verify the signatures. The completed petition (comprising all the signature pages) will next be submitted by a certain deadline to the State Board of Elections. Please review the petition fact sheet that is specific to your petition type.
  6. Submit final documentation.Depending upon the type of petition you are circulating, you might have to submit the county-verified signature pages to the State Board of Elections after the county board(s) verification process.

1 Fact Sheets address specific types of petitions: ABC; Petition in Lieu of Fee; Unaffiliated; New Party; and Write-In.

2 Unaffiliated judicial petitions and the petition request forms to be submitted by the interested candidate are always managed directly with the State Board of Elections, regardless of the jurisdictional boundaries of the seat.

 

 

Petition Information - State Jurisdiction

Several dates and signature requirement numbers were changed by the passage of Session Law 2017-214(Senate Bill 656) on October 17, 2017. These changes will go into effect beginning with the 2018 election. These tables have been updated to reflect that new data.

 

Petition Type Number of Required Signatures When are petitions due***? Governing Statutes
For a candidate's name to be placed on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate... ...in the contest for President of the U.S. 1.5% of all registered N.C. voters who voted in the most recent election for N.C. Governor. 12:00 p.m., the day of the primary election to CBE. N.C. General Statutes §163-122(a)(1) and §163-209
...in the contest for N.C General Assembly. 4% of all registered N.C. voters in the district, as of January 1 of the election year. 12:00 p.m., the day of the primary election to CBE. N.C. General Statute §163-122(a)(1)
...in a statewide contest. 1.5% of all registered N.C. voters who voted in the most recent election for N.C. Governor. 12:00 p.m., the day of the primary election to CBE. N.C. General Statute §163-122(a)(1)
...in a district (multi-county) contest except for N.C. General Assembly.  1.5% of all registered N.C. voters in the district, as of January 1 of the election year. 12:00 p.m., the day of the primary election to CBE. N.C. General Statute §163-122(a)(2)
For a candidate to qualify as a write-in candidate... ...in the contest for President of the U.S. 500 registered N.C. voters. 12:00 p.m., 90 days before the General Election*. N.C. General Statute §163-123(c)(1)
...in a statewide contest. 500 registered N.C. voters. 12:00 p.m., 90 days before the General Election*. N.C. General Statute §163-123(c)(1)
...in a district (multi-county) contest. 250 registered N.C. voters. 12:00 p.m., 90 days before the General Election*. N.C. General Statute §163-123(c)(2)
For the petition to be used by a candidate in lieu of payment of filing fee... ...in seeking nomination in a party primary for a statewide contest. 5% of the party's registered N.C. voters or 8000 registered N.C. voters of any affiliation, whichever is greater. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline*. N.C. General Statute §163-107.1(b)
...in seeking nomination in a party primary for a district (multi-county) contest. 5% of the party's registered N.C. voters in the respective district, or 200 registered N.C. voters of any affiliation, whichever is greater. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline*. N.C. General Statute §163-107.1(c)
...in seeking nomination in a nonpartisan primary or election for a district (multi-county) contest. 5% of the N.C. registered voters in the election area in which the office will be voted for. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline*. N.C. General Statute §163-107.1(d)
...in seeking election as Supreme Court Justice or Court of Appeals Judge. 8,000 registered N.C. voters in the state or applicable district. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline*. N.C. General Statute §163-325
...in seeking election as Superior Court Judge or District Court Judge. 5% of registered N.C. voters in the respective judicial district. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline*. N.C. General Statute §163-325
For a candidate to seek the endoresement by the national political party for the office of President of the United States. 10,000 registered N.C. voters belong to the same political party as the candidate for whom the petition is filed. 5:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the State Board's meeting to nominate presidential candidates**. N.C. General Statute §163-213.5
For recognition as a political party under the election laws of North Carolina. 2% of all registered N.C. voters who voted in the most recent election for N.C. Governor. 12:00 p.m., June 1, of the year of the election that the party wishes to participate in*. N.C. General Statute §163-96(b)

* In order for the county Boards of Election to have enough time to properly review signatures, petitions must be submitted to the counties for verification no later than 15 days before they are due to the State Board of Elections.

** In order for the county Boards of Election to have enough time to properly review signatures, petitions must be submitted to the counties for verification no later than 10 days before they are due to the State Board of Elections.

*** All state petitions should be submitted to the State Board of Elections unless otherwise noted. 

Petition Information - County & Local Jurisdiction

Petition Type Number of Required Signatures When are petitions due? Governing Statutes
For a candidate's name to be placed on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate... ...in a county contest or single-county district contest. 4% of all registered N.C. voters within the county or district. 12:00 p.m., the second Wednesday prior to the primary election. N.C. General Statute §163-122(a)(3)
...in a municipal contest. 1.5% of all registered N.C. voters within the municipality. 12:00 p.m., the Friday preceding the 7th Saturday before the election. N.C. General Statute §163-122(a)(4)
For a candidate to qualify as a write-in candidate for a county office, school administrative office, or single-county district office.

If the area contains 5,000 or more registered N.C. voters, then 100 registered N.C. voters from that area.

If the area contains fewer than 5,000 registered N.C. voters, then 1% of registered N.C. voters from that area.

12:00 p.m., 90 days before the General Election. N.C. General Statute §163-123(c)(3)
For the petition to be used by a candidate in lieu of payment of filing fee... ...in seeking nomination in a party primary for a county, municipal, or single-county district contest. 5% of the party's registered N.C. voters in the respective area, or 200 registered N.C. voters of any affiliation, whichever is greater. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline. N.C. General Statute §163-107.1(c)
...in seeking election for a county, municipal, or single-county district contest. 5% of registered N.C. voters in the respective area. 12:00 p.m., the Monday preceding the candidate filing deadline. N.C. General Statute §163-107.1(d)
For a county or municipality to conduct an alcoholic beverage (ABC) election. 35% of registered N.C. voters in the county or municipality in which the election is called. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. N.C. General Statutes §18B-600, §18B-601, & §18B-602
For a county or municipality to conduct an election on a bond order. 10% of registered N.C. voters in the county or municipality in which the election is called. Must be filed with the issuing unit's clerk within 30 days after the publication of the bond order. N.C. General Statute §159-60
For an election on a taxation issue relating to the public school system, as delineated in N.C. General Statute §115C-501.

On questions of annexing areas to the city administrative unit: a majority (50%+1) of registered N.C. voters in the area in which the election is called.

On all other issues enumerated in N.C. General Statute §115C-501: 25% of registered N.C. voters in the area in which the election is called.

No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. N.C. General Statutes §115C-501 to §115C-505
For an election on an amendment to a municipal charter. 10% of the registered N.C. voters in the municipality or 5,000 registered N.C. voters, whichever is fewer. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. N.C. General Statute §160A-104
For an election on municipal incorporation. 15% of the registered N.C. voters in the proposed area or 25 registered N.C. voters, whichever is greater. Must be submitted to the Municipal Incorporations Subcommittee of the N.C. General Assembly 60 days prior to convening of the next regular session of the General Assembly. N.C. General Statute §120-163
For municipal annexation. All real property owners in the area proposed to be annexed. No election associated with this process. Submit petition to the governing board of the municipality. N.C. General Statute §160A-31
For a special election to determine if a levy should be repealed. 15% of all registered N.C. voters who voted in the most recent election for N.C. Governor. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. N.C. General Statute §105-473
For the incorporation of a sanitary district. 51% of the freeholders in the area of the proposed district. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. Petition should be filed with the County Commission of the county where the majority of the proposed district resides. N.C. General Statute §130A-48
For a special election regarding the incorporation of a fire district. 35% of the freeholders in the area of the proposed district. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. Petition should be filed with the County Commission. N.C. General Statute §69-25.1
For a special election regarding the abolition of a fire district. 15% of the freeholders in the area of the proposed district. No date set by statute, but it is recommended that the petition is submitted several months in advance of the planned election date to allow review. Petition should be filed with the County Commission. N.C. General Statute §69-25.10
All other types of local petitions. Governed by municipal charter or local act. Contact your city or county government to learn more. Governed by municipal charter or local act. Contact your city or county government to learn more. Click here for information on special forms of local elections, such as initiatives, referendums, and recalls.