Monday, May 16, 2022 - 00:00

A Reporter's and Voter's Primer for the 2022 Primary Election

The 2022 statewide primary election is Tuesday, May 17, and the State Board of Elections wants to be sure that media representatives and voters have answers to common questions about Election Day and post-election processes.
Raleigh, N.C.
May 16, 2022

The 2022 statewide primary election is Tuesday, May 17, and the State Board of Elections wants to be sure that media representatives and voters have answers to common questions about Election Day and post-election processes.


The following is a reporter’s and voter’s primer to assist in covering and understanding the 2022 primary elections in North Carolina.

Early voting statistics

More than 577,000 voters cast ballots either in person during the early voting period or by mail, a significant increase over 2018 primary election totals for these voting methods. Four years ago, about 295,000 voters cast ballots early – either early in person or by mail.

For more detailed early voting stats, see Absentee Stats Reports by day for the 2022 primary election. Also, see 2022 Statewide Primary Election Turnout, which provides turnout statistics for the 2022 primary, as they become available, as well as comparable stats from previous primaries.

Election Day Voting

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. May 17. Voters should show up at their assigned Election Day polling place. Find your polling place through the Voter Search or the Election Day Polling Place Search. See also 12 Tips for Voters on 2022 Primary Election Day and Vote in Person on Election Day.

Elections officials will host an news conference at 11 a.m. on Election Day. For details, see Election Officials to Host News Conference on Primary Election Day.

Possible State Board of Elections Meeting

In a statewide election with over 2,000 voting locations, it’s not unusual for minor issues to occur at polling places that result in brief disruptions of voting.

N.C.G.S. § 163-166.01 authorizes the State Board to extend voting hours at sites where voting is interrupted for at least 15 minutes. The Board may extend voting only as long as the disruption and only for the affected sites.

If the State Board needs to meet to extend voting hours at any location, a meeting notice will be sent out on Tuesday, and the meeting will be broadcast live via Webex.

Reporting of Unofficial Results

After polls close on election night, unofficial results will be updated as they become available on the Election Results Dashboard. For more information on the posting of results, see Election Night Reporting Timeline. Remember: Election Night results are always unofficial.

The Election is Not Over on Election Night

Election night marks the beginning of the statutorily required vote-counting and auditing processes after every election, called “canvass.” 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 canvass meetings will be held by each county board of elections at 11 a.m. Friday, May 27.

Also pursuant to state law, the State Board will meet at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 9, to finalize primary results. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.5.

All eligible ballots will be counted. For the primary, 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. Friday, May 20. Ballots from military and overseas voters received by 5 p.m. May 26 will also be counted, as required by state law. N.C.G.S. § 163-258.12. 

Provisional ballots cast during the election must be researched to determine voter eligibility. Ballots determined to be cast by eligible voters will be added to the results during the canvass period. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.2. 

Results Must Be Verified 

Under North Carolina law, all ballots are counted by certified and tested machines. The sample audit count, also required by state law, helps ensure the reliability of the machine-tabulated results. Bipartisan teams in each county conduct hand-to-eye counts of all ballots in the randomly selected precincts and compare the results with the results of the machine counts.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, State Board staff will randomly select two precincts in every county to be audited. For the purpose of this random selection, one-stop early voting locations and the entire collection of absentee-by-mail ballots received by a county are considered “precincts.” For information, see State Board to Randomly Select Precincts for Post-Election Audits.

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.

Determining Primary Winners

Under N.C.G.S. § 163-111, the top candidate 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. 

Any second primary would be held on Tuesday, July 26.

Candidates for federal or statewide offices, judicial or district attorney offices, and N.C. House or N.C. Senate districts spanning more than one county, who are apparently eligible to demand a second primary, according to unofficial results, must file a written request with the executive director of the State Board of Elections by noon on Thursday, May 26. Any request would be subject to the certification of official results by the State Board.

Requests for a second primary from candidates for state senator or state representative in a single-county district or candidates for county offices must be submitted in writing to the appropriate county board of elections, also by noon on May 26.

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