With the governor’s race between incumbent Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper still in question, as well as the race for state auditor between incumbent Democrat Beth Wood and challenger Chuck Stuber, many are taking a closer look at the way the state elections process looks.
Currently, a bit fewer than 5,000 votes separate McCrory and Cooper; the margin in the race between Wood and Stuber is about 3,000 votes.
But in a race where neither candidate has conceded victory to the other, what is the process for coming to an official result?
Members of the 100 local boards of elections are currently hard at work with the post-election processes that will eventually lead to certifying their county’s election results, on Friday, Nov. 18.
According to the State Board of Elections, the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day is November 14 at 5 p.m. November 17 is the deadline for overseas and military absentee ballots to be counted.
County boards of elections are scheduled to certify results at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18, which is the county canvass.
After the county canvass, but before noon on Nov. 22, a statewide candidate may demand a recount.
In order to demand a recount, the vote difference must be less than 10,000 votes. All 100 counties would then perform their own recounts.
Only after the state canvass, scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, are results considered official.
Susan Myrick, elections policy analyst at the Civitas Institute, a Raleigh think tank, said McCrory’s campaign has already raised concerns over possible irregularities in Durham County after eight precincts’ voting hours were extended on Election Day.
The county board of election reported 90,000 votes late on Election Night that pushed Cooper ahead of McCrory by those few thousand votes. McCrory has not conceded the election and that race appears to be headed for a recount.
Myrick said in an article on www.nccivitas.org that it “wasn’t the first time the Durham County [board of election] had problems this year. In May, after the March 2016 primary, it was discovered that a [board of election] staff member had counted more than 200 provisional ballots twice when the number of voters didn’t match the number of ballots cast.
Recently, she added, “The Durham County [board of election] began work on their 1,768 provisional ballots. Kate Cosner, chief of staff and interim director, directed the staff on the correct way to input provisional information. Once the information is entered into the provisional system, the board staff will begin investigating each voter and ultimately the three county board members will make the decision as to whether to count their votes. Only a few of what appeared to be political activists were at the Durham [board of election] this afternoon to observe the process. It will take several days to complete the process.
“It has been reported that there are more than 50,000 provisional ballots yet to be processed and there are more absentee ballots to be counted, undoubtedly changing the final results.”
Explaining a little more about the provisional voting process, Myrick said, “In every election, in all 100 counties, all provisional ballots are investigated and if the voter is eligible, their votes are counted. A provisional ballot is a safety net provided to all voters who have voter registration problems when they go to cast their votes, especially on Election Day.
“While there are different reasons why a voter would vote a provisional ballot, unreported moves seem to be the reason most vote provisionally. A voter who fails to update his address after a move in the county would be allowed to vote a provisional ballot. The ballot is then returned to the local BOE office where the staff investigates the voter’s eligibility.”
With a recount looming, the gubernatorial election will almost surely not be settled before Thanksgiving, though on election night Cooper claimed the victory.