The State Board of Elections is releasing the following facts about the post-election vote-counting process in North Carolina, in part to address rapidly spreading misinformation. These processes are required by law.
- It’s the Law. The post-election “canvass” process occurs after every election. Canvass is the entire process of ensuring votes have been counted correctly and required audits have been completed, culminating in the certification of results during meetings of every county board of elections. By law, these meetings will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, November 13. Also pursuant to state law, the State Board of Elections will meet at 11 a.m. November 24 to finalize the results. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.5.
- All Eligible Ballots Must Be Counted. In 2020, county boards of elections must count absentee by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day that arrive in the mail by 5 p.m. November 12. Ballots from military and overseas voters received by 5 p.m. November 12 will also be counted, as required by state law. N.C.G.S. § 163-258.12. During the post-election period, county boards also conduct research to determine whether to wholly or partially count provisional ballots. All eligible provisional ballots are counted during the canvass process. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.2. The post-election period ensures that the ballots of eligible voters will be counted as long as they meet statutory deadlines and comply with all other laws. This allows more eligible voters to lawfully exercise their right to vote.
- Results Must Be Audited. After each election, the State Board randomly selects two precincts in every county, where paper ballots must be counted by hand for the highest contest on the ballot – the presidential race in 2020 – and compared with the tabulated results. Called the “sample hand-to-eye count,” this audit recounts the ballots in the random precincts to ensure reliability of machine-tabulated results. Bipartisan teams at county boards of elections have been conducting these audits during the past week. The State Board of Elections conducts additional audits to verify the accuracy of the count. The results of all audits will be submitted to the State Board as part of the final certification of the election. For more information, see the Post-Election Procedures and Audits webpage.
- Elections Officials Do Not “Call” Elections. Many North Carolinians have contacted elections officials to ask why certain contests have been “called” for a particular candidate, while others have not. The state and county boards of elections have never – and will 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, including the North Carolina governor’s race and North Carolina U.S. Senate race, the trailing candidates “conceded” when they realized they could not make up the vote differential with the ballots still uncounted. The State Board will certify final results on November 24. After that, the boards of elections will issue certificates of election to the prevailing candidates. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.15.