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What the State Board wants you to know about Election Day

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By Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States (vote for better tape) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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NC State Board of Elections

As Election Day nears for the 2022 general election, the State Board of Elections wants to make sure voters understand what to expect on November 8, including how the results reporting process works.

Patrick Gannon, the public information director for the state board, said this overview is to ensure that routine and required election procedures are not misconstrued or misrepresented.

Elections are the product of extensive planning and preparation, with thousands of bipartisan election workers, hundreds of partisan observers, and the bipartisan county boards of elections watching every step.

Gannon said there are 10 things to expect on Election Day and immediately afterward:

1) Minor disruptions arise during every election, such as power outages, tabulator or printer jams, or longer lines at some voting places. These are not indications of malicious activity, and processes are in place to respond to each scenario. For example, if a ballot tabulator malfunctions, trained officials can be brought in to repair it, or the machine can be replaced by a certified and tested backup. Counties have backup plans in the event of a power failure. On Election Day, more than 2,650 Election Day polling places are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Across the state, hundreds of thousands of voters will cast their ballots. Isolated, minor problems are not unusual, given the scale of Election Day operations across all 100 counties.

2) It is not unusual for the State Board to extend polling hours beyond 7:30 p.m. if a disruption at a polling place causes an interruption in voting. The Board will issue a public notice if it meets on Election Day to consider polling hours extensions. The public will be able to listen to the meeting remotely. Under N.C.G.S. § 163-166.01, the State Board may extend voting hours at sites where voting is interrupted for at least 15 minutes, but the Board may extend voting only as long as the disruption and only for the affected sites. All votes cast after 7:30 p.m. will be provisional votes, per state law. If polling times are extended in any location, this may delay statewide results reporting until all voters have cast their ballots.

3) Unofficial election results will be reported as they become available on the State Board’s Election Results Dashboard. Once polls close at 7:30 p.m., the dashboard is updated regularly throughout election night as county boards of elections report results to the state. Reporting results is a labor-intensive process that takes time. Results from each voting site must be physically delivered to the office of the county board of elections under strict chain-of-custody procedures. Those results must then be verified and loaded onto the statewide reporting system. For more information, see About the Election Results Dashboard.

4) Election night results are always unofficial. Elections are far from over on election night. In the days after the election, bipartisan election officials in all 100 counties will ensure every eligible ballot is counted. They will audit and ultimately certify the results. Called the "canvass" process, this occurs after every election. For local contests, the county boards will certify results on November 18. For all other contests, the State Board will certify final results on November 29. After that, the boards of elections will issue certificates of election to the prevailing candidates. See N.C.G.S. §163-182.15. For more, see Post-Election Procedures and Audits.

5) The State Board anticipates that the unofficial results reported by the end of election night will include about 99 percent of all ballots cast in North Carolina in the 2022 general election. The State Board will stop adding ballots to the totals on election night only after there are no additional ballots to count at that point.

6) Ballots that will be counted and reported by the end of election night include:

  • All votes cast by voters during the One-Stop early voting period, excluding provisional ballots, which must be researched post-election to determine voter eligibility.
  • All by-mail absentee votes received by the county boards of elections by 5 p.m. Monday, November 7.
  • All Election Day votes, excluding provisional ballots, which must be researched.

7)    Ballots that will not be counted and added to unofficial results on election night include:

  • Properly signed and witnessed absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and arrive in the mail by 5 p.m. Monday, November 14.
  • Overseas and military absentee ballots that arrive by mail to the county board of elections by 5 p.m. November 17.
  • All provisional ballots, which must be researched after the election to determine voter eligibility. For more, see Provisional Voting.

County boards of elections will add any eligible ballots from these categories to the results during the post-election canvass period.

8)    The general timeline for results reporting is as follows, but various factors can affect the timing:

  • 7:30 p.m.: Polls close.
  • 7:30 — 9 p.m.: Counties report results of one-stop early voting and absentee by-mail ballots received by 5 p.m. Monday, November 7.
  • 7:30 — 9:30 p.m.: Precinct officials hand-deliver Election Day results to county boards of elections offices.
  • 8:30 p.m. — midnight: Election Day precinct results are reported; reporting continues until all Election Day unofficial results are posted.

9) Elections officials do not “call” elections. Election officials never “call” or project a race for any candidate. Projections are made by media and/or candidates using unofficial results, typically based on the vote difference and the number of votes yet to be counted in a contest. In some cases, the trailing candidate will concede the contest if they realize they could not make up the vote differential with the ballots still uncounted. Election officials will go through the same post-election processes no matter how close the contest, even when a candidate concedes.

10) Stay tuned to the State Board for additional information about the election. The State Board plans to issue additional news releases in the coming days, including tips for Election Day voters and information about post-election processes, including audits and recounts. To ensure voters can be well-informed, the agency also plans online and in-person media availabilities on Monday, November 7, and on the morning of Election Day. Details about the media events will be sent out soon.