North Carolina’s Primary Election is today – OBX Today

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Primary Election Day 2024 is here. For those covering or watching the election, the State Board of Elections offers the following reminders about Election Day and beyond.

Election Day

For a reminder of the rules for voting in a primary and other important things to keep in mind when voting in North Carolina, please see the State Board’s 10 Tips for 2024 Primary Election Day Voters.

Statewide for the primary, about 2,600 polling places are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Hundreds of thousands of voters will cast their ballots. Election officials hope and expect voting to run smoothly across the state. However, isolated, minor problems are not unusual, given the scale of Election Day operations across all 100 counties.

During every election, minor disruptions arise, such as power outages, tabulator issues 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. Voted ballots are kept securely in the meantime. And counties have backup plans in the event of a power failure.

It is not unusual for the State Board to extend voting 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 voting hours extensions. The public will be able to listen to the meeting remotely. Under N.C.G.S. § 163-166.25, 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 voting times are extended in any location, results reporting in the affected county will be delayed until all voting is complete.

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. Due to changes in state law in 2023, the results of in-person early voting will be released later than usual on March 5. For details, see Some Election Results Will Be Reported Later Than Usual Due to State Law Changes.

Reporting results is a labor-intensive process which takes time. Results from each polling place must be physically delivered to the county board of elections office under strict chain-of-custody procedures. Those results must then be verified and loaded onto the statewide reporting system.

Additionally, vote totals posted on election night never include absentee ballots delivered to the county boards of elections on Election Day, absentee ballots delivered after Election Day (in the case of military or overseas voters), or provisional ballots cast by eligible voters. Those ballots are tabulated during the 10-day canvass period after Election Day.

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 always go through the post-election processes required by law, no matter how close the contest, even when a candidate concedes.

Beyond Election Day

Election night results are always unofficial, and elections are far from over on election night. In the days after the election, bipartisan county boards of elections in all 100 counties count the remaining absentee ballots, research and count provisional ballots, audit the results, and conduct any necessary recounts. For example, every county conducts a sample hand count of ballots in randomly selected Election Day precincts, early voting sites and/or absentee ballots cast in the election to confirm results tabulated by machine. Counties must conduct their hand counts in public.

The State Board conducts additional audits to ensure a fair and accurate count.

Called the “canvass” process, this occurs after every election. For local contests, the county boards will certify results on Friday, March 15. For all other contests, the State Board will certify final results on Tuesday, March 26. See N.C.G.S. § 163-182.15. For more, see Post-Election Procedures and Audits.

Recounts are possible in close contests. A second-place candidate can demand a recount under the following scenarios:

  • For a statewide ballot item, the difference between the top two candidates is ½ of 1% (0.5%) of the votes cast in the ballot item, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less.
  • For a non-statewide ballot item, the difference between the candidates is 1% or less of the total votes cast in the contest, or in the case of a multi-seat ballot item, not more than 1% of the votes cast for those two candidates.

Any mandatory recounts would be conducted by county boards of elections after the county canvass and before the state canvass.

A second primary, if necessary for any contests, would take place on May 14, 2024. Under state law, the top candidate for a single office who receives more than 30% of the vote in a primary wins their party’s nomination and moves on to the general election. If no candidate in a primary receives more than 30% of the vote, the candidate who receives the second-highest vote total may demand a second primary. The top two vote-getters would be on the ballot for the second primary.

For multi-seat contests, a candidate is nominated who receives more than 30% of the votes cast for all candidates, divided by the number of seats to be filled. If not enough candidates attain the required vote totals to be declared nominees for all seats to be filled, the remaining seats would be filled by those remaining candidates who received the highest vote totals, unless a second primary is requested by one or all of the candidates for that number of remaining seats and who received the next highest vote totals. The candidates receiving the highest vote totals to fill the remaining seats and any runner-up candidates who demand a second primary would be on the second primary ballot.

All voters who live in the district for which a second primary is conducted and are registered with the political party of the candidates are eligible to vote in the second primary. For example, if a second primary is held for the Democratic primary in a congressional district, then all registered Democrats who live in that congressional district would be eligible.

Unaffiliated voters who live in that district and either didn’t vote in the primary, or who voted the ballot of the party for which the second primary is being held, would also be eligible. For the example above, unaffiliated voters who voted a nonpartisan, Republican, or Libertarian ballot in the first primary would not be eligible to vote in a second primary for Democratic Party candidates.

In counties where second primaries are held, new registration of voters is not permitted between the first and second primaries. This means same-day registration is not available during early voting for the second primary. However, individuals who become eligible to vote between the primary and second primary and who are otherwise eligible to vote in the second primary may register and vote in the second primary.