Razor-tight races remain undecided
In an election where a record-setting 75 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters cast ballots, tabulating those results is not instantaneous.
And, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBOE), there remains the process of counting absentee-by-mail ballots that have yet to arrive as well as sorting through a large number of provisional ballots cast on Nov. 3.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of absentee by-mail ballots that could still be counted statewide is approximately 116,000. That number includes all outstanding absentee by-mail ballots for which the individual did not vote in person during the early voting period from October 15-31.
Included among the outstanding ballots, approximately 45,300 were pending on Nov. 4 from unaffiliated voters; 43,000 from registered Democrats; and 26,500 from voters who are registered as Republicans. The remainder are from voters registered with other political parties.
As of Nov. 4, approximately 200 of those ballots were pending from registered voters in Bertie County; 100 in Gates County; 200 in Hertford County; and 100 in Northampton County.
As expected, the largest number of pending absentee-by-mail ballots are in the state’s most populated counties: Wake (approximately 15,000); Mecklenburg (14,900); Guilford (6,700); Forsyth (5,400); Cumberland (4,100); and Durham (3,300).
Absentee-by-mail ballots, if postmarked on or before Nov. 3, are eligible to be counted as long as they are received by the deadline (5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12). Military and overseas ballots received by 5 p.m. Nov. 12 are also counted.
The county boards of elections will add all eligible ballots, to include approved provisional ballots, to the unofficial results during their upcoming board meetings. Most of the meetings will be held on Thursday, Nov. 12 or Friday, Nov. 13.
Provisional ballots cast on Election Day must still be researched to determine voter eligibility. Provisional ballots are cast when an individual’s name does not appear on the poll book or other questions arise about that person’s eligibility to vote or to vote a particular ballot.
Locally, provisional ballots were cast on Nov. 3 in Bertie (87), Gates (53), Hertford (71), and Northampton (32), according to information released Thursday by the SBOE. Wake and Mecklenburg counties saw the highest number of provisional ballots cast with 3,437 and 2,483 respectively.
Absentee-by-mail and approved provisional ballots could possibly determine the outcome of several razor-close races across the state, to include the President of the United States (Trump led Biden by 76,701 votes according to unofficial numbers posted Tuesday night). In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Thom Tillis leads challenger Cal Cunningham by a shade over 97,000 votes. Incumbent NC Attorney General Josh Stein holds less than an 11,000 vote lead over challenger Jim O’Neill, and the final results of two of the three NC Supreme Court races rest on the pending absentee-by-mail/provisional ballots – to include the outcome of the Chief Justice’s seat where incumbent Cheri Beasley trails Paul Newby by 3,742 votes.
SBOE officials stressed that every vote must be counted.
“We encourage the public to be patient and let the process unfold as it does in every election,” said Karen Brinson Bell, SBOE executive director. “All results reported on election night are unofficial. The post-election process ensures that all eligible voters’ ballots are counted and that voters can be confident that the results are accurate. This is a long-established process. This year is no different.”
As of Tuesday night, 5.5 million votes had been tabulated across North Carolina. That number includes just over 3.6 million individuals who cast ballots during the 17-day One-Stop voting period. There were nearly one million (977,186) ballots cast via the absentee-by-mail method. The remainder (just over 902,000) cast ballots on Election Day.
The SBOE certifies the winner only after canvass, including a series of post-election audits conducted by state and county elections officials.