by Nyamekye Daniel
Vote counting continues in North Carolina, more than a week after the Nov. 3 general election.
As absentee votes continue to roll in before Thursday’s deadline, state results for president, U.S. Senate and attorney general are among the races still pending Tuesday.
“We are nearing the finish line,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE). “We ask that the public please be patient as county boards of elections, as required, continue to count all eligible ballots that arrive by mail, conduct thorough post-election audits and certify their results.”
The U.S. Supreme Court approved an extension for accepting absentee ballots in North Carolina on Oct. 28. The ruling allowed mail-in absentee ballots received through Thursday to be counted as long as they were postmarked on or before Nov. 3.
As of Monday, about 94,900 requested absentee ballots were outstanding. Election officials, however, said the number of outstanding ballots to be returned will be affected by the number of absentee voters who opted to vote on Election Day or changed their minds about voting altogether.
North Carolinians had three options to vote during the general election.
Voters could have registered and voted during the early voting period of Oct. 15 through Oct. 31 at selected polling places. Mail-in ballots also were accepted at early voting polling locations during the two-week period before the election week.
All early votes are considered absentee ballots, according to North Carolina law. According to the NCSBE, county board of elections started to process absentee ballots five weeks before Election Day.
Election officials inserted approved early ballots into voting machines weekly over the five weeks, but officials did not report the results until Election Day. As of NCSBE’s report Tuesday morning, 3.6 million ballots were cast through one-stop locations. Nearly 1 million votes were cast by mail, according to NCSBE.
Voters who voted on Election Day in North Carolina inserted their ballots into the voting machine themselves, and those votes were counted and reported election night, according to the NCSBE.
Ballots can be rejected or considered invalid for several reasons, but state law prohibits voters from being turned away. Instead, poll workers must offer voters provisional ballots and applications. Election officials review the provisional applications to determine the voter’s eligibility before unsealing the provisional ballot, according to the NCSBE.
A voter is required to use a provisional ballot if their voter registration record cannot be found, they have an unreported address change or invalid address, they previously were removed from the voter rolls, they voted at the wrong precinct or they already voted or voted during extended polling hours, according to the NCSBE.
“If the board determines that the voter is eligible, the provisional ballot is counted,” the NCSBE website reads. “If the voter is eligible for some contests on the ballot but not others, the eligible contests will be counted for that voter.”
There were 40,766 provisional votes cast statewide in the Nov. 3 election, the NCSBE said. County boards of elections will canvass the election Friday, and the NCSBE will meet Nov. 24 to certify the final results.
As of Tuesday, President Donald Trump had a 74,834-vote lead over presumptive president-elect Joe Biden in North Carolina. The Associated Press and several other news outlets have called the nationwide race for Biden.
Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., has secured 95,292 votes more than his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has a 12,355-vote lead over his Republican opponent, Jim O’Neill.
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Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel’s work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times. Daniel is a staff reporter for The Center Square.
Photo “Stop the Steal Sign” by Anthony Crider. CC BY 2.0.