The “vast majority” of county boards of elections will be pushing back their counties’ vote canvasses past the Nov. 18 deadline, as prescribed by state law, due to difficulties tabulating their results, state board officials said.
Pat Gannon, public information officer for the State Board of Elections, said that “many, if not all, counties are expected” to delay their county canvasses, in accordance with state statutes providing that county boards can push back their canvasses for a “reasonable time” if the initial counting has not been completed as of 11 a.m. Friday morning.
After election night, officials have until Nov. 18 to certify their county results and then the state is supposed to certify its results Nov. 29. However, challenges and questions of voter integrity have complicated tabulating the final numbers, in addition to the two likely recounts to be undertaken for the governor’s race and the race for state auditor.
In a normal election year, this initial canvass of results confirms that all votes have been counted and tabulated correctly followed by a final certification of statewide totals by the State Board of Elections, Gannon said.
Under state law, however, counties can delay their canvass for a reasonable time if the initial counting has not been completed.
The state can also push back its canvass for up to 10 days if the county canvasses are not completed by Nov. 29, Gannon said.
“Postponing canvass is necessary when certain decisions have not been made regarding provisional ballots, certain types of election protests are pending, or a delay is necessary to comply with a judicial order,” Gannon said in a press release. “The counties have good reason to extend their canvasses this year, including a recent court order.”
Regarding the court order, in the final days of early voting a federal court required election officials and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to create a new review process for certain voters who claim they registered or changed their address at the DMV, even if no record of registration could be found.
“The State Board acted immediately to create necessary procedures and to print special materials for North Carolina’s 2,700 precincts in the week before Election Day,” Gannon said. “The order requires counties to approve a provisional ballot if the voter affirms she either registered or changed her address at the DMV, unless [the] DMV can locate a signed form declining voter registration services during a certain period of time. The process of locating that data remains ongoing.”
In addition to the court order are the issues of the two likely recounts.
In statewide races, when one candidate trails the other by 10,000 votes or less that candidate can ask for a recount after the county canvass is completed, as long as the demand comes in by noon on the second business day following the canvass.
In the race for governor, Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper are separated by about 5,000 votes. In the race for state auditor, incumbent Beth Wood was about 3,000 votes ahead of Republican challenger Chuck Stuber.
Stuber has already declared his intention to seek a recount after the county canvasses are completed, assuming he is not in the lead for state auditor.
“If a recount is demanded, the counties would conduct recounts individually in public view,” Gannon said.
Even further complicating the county canvass process are several elections protests filed with county boards of elections across the state.
“If the protest concerns the counting of ballots, county boards should meet as soon as possible to determine whether there is probable cause that a violation or irregularity occurred,” Gannon said. “If so, the boards will conduct a full hearing on the protest. Protests can result in different outcomes, including dismissal, re-tabulation, or other options spelled out in (state statutes.)”
The decisions in those protests can then be appealed to the State Board of Elections.