Rusty Jacobs

Political Reporter

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC. Rusty previously worked at WUNC as a reporter and substitute host from 2001 until 2007 and now returns after a nine-year absence during which he went to law school at Carolina and then worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Wake County.

As a reporter, he has covered a wide array of topics including military affairs, sports, government and damaging storms.

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Roy Cooper Dan Forest 2020 election
Gerry Broome / AP

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Dan Forest faced off Wednesday night in the lone debate of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race. It was a spirited exchange over education, health care, economy and the COVID-19 crisis.

Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

I first spoke with David Quinn a couple of weeks ago, before the first presidential debate. Quinn, 64, was coming out of the post office branch in downtown Oxford, the Granville County seat.

Quinn and his wife are empty nesters, who moved to Oxford from Raleigh.

"You don't have the traffic, you can buy way more house for way less money," he said at the time.

An unmarked envelope and absentee ballot for a voter in Orange County.
Amy Jeffries / WUNC

Tens of thousands of absentee ballots already returned by North Carolina voters have been processed without issue. But a much smaller number has been set aside – held up while elections officials eagerly await guidance on how to cure deficiencies like missing witness information.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether North Carolina is providing voters sufficient opportunity to fix absentee ballots that arrive without full information on who witnessed it.

Scandal and litigation have cast a cloud of uncertainty over North Carolina elections. On Friday, incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. He's in self-isolation experiencing mild symptoms.

Notably, Tillis serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and he’s the second member of that panel to test positive – along with Republican Michael Lee of Utah.

If Tillis and Lee are out for some time, the Republican majority's efforts to quickly push through Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett could be delayed.

Granville County is a swing county in a swing state. In 2008 and 2012, voters there went for Barack Obama by healthy margins. But the county flipped in 2016, going for Trump by two percentage points.

Meet some Granville County residents and see how they're planning to vote this November:

Oxford, NC, the seat of Granville County
Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

On a late afternoon in Granville County, Linda Smart took a stroll around beautiful Lake Rogers Park with her husband, Henry, and a friend.

"We're hikers and kayakers and stuff, so we're usually at parks," said Smart, 65.

The Smarts recently moved north from Durham to Granville to find a little more wide open space.

Board of Elections absentee north carolina vote
Gerry Broome / AP

Ken Raymond and David Black suddenly resigned from the North Carolina State Board of Elections late Wednesday claiming they were misled about a proposed settlement of lawsuits over absentee voting rules. It was an abrupt turnaround from the unanimous vote the two members joined just days earlier in a closed session of the elections board.

Board of Elections absentee north carolina vote
Gerry Broome / AP

It didn't take long for a GOP candidate to exploit the resignations of the two Republican members of North Carolina's State Board of Elections.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

The two Republican members of North Carolina's state elections board have resigned after signing off on a legal settlement to alter absentee ballot rules for this fall.

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Check out our 2020 Voter Guide for information on absentee ballots and more. And be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide and legislative elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast, and follow reporters Rusty Jacobs and Jeff Tiberii on Twitter.

This year, North Carolina voters will make crucial decisions at the polls that could impact state politics and laws for at least the next decade.

In addition to casting their ballot in the race for the White House, North Carolinians will also vote in statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate, the state attorney general, the state supreme court, and U.S. House races.

Tiffany Tertipes / Creative Commons/ Unsplash

More than a tenth of registered voters in North Carolina have requested absentee ballots this year — significantly higher than in previous elections.

Louis DeJoy
USPS

United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has long been a political fundraiser in North Carolina. He’s amassed millions for Republican candidates in races for governor, Congress and president. Now that fundraising has come under scrutiny for possibly violating campaign finance law while the postmaster was CEO of New Breed Logistics.

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Check out our 2020 Voter Guide for information on absentee ballots and more. And be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide and legislative elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast, and follow reporters Rusty Jacobs and Jeff Tiberii on Twitter.

The North Carolina General Assembly recently enacted legislation to ease absentee-by-mail voting this year and to make polls safer for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Voters fill out their ballots at the Hamilton County Board of Elections as early voting begins statewide, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted along party lines Monday to back plans for early voting on Sundays in some counties.

Tiffany Tertipes / Unsplash / creative commons

North Carolina voters continue to request absentee-by-mail ballots this year at a record pace. Requests are now 15 times ahead of where the number was at the same time four years ago, during the last presidential election cycle. They're expected to surpass 500,000 this weekend.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.
N.C. Department of Public Safety

A proposed budget plan issued this week by Governor Roy Cooper could set up some battle lines for this fall's General Election.

Cooper has issued a budgetary wish list as lawmakers return to Raleigh next week. The legislative session was scheduled so lawmakers could address the allocation of nearly $1 billion in COVID-19 federal relief funds.

Boxes of absentee ballot requests sit at the Durham County Board of Elections office in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. The county has seen an increase in the number of absentee ballot requests for the 2020 election during the coronavirus pandemic
Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Interest in absentee-by-mail voting is way up this year in North Carolina. Voters are submitting absentee ballot request forms at a record pace — requests statewide are already 10 times ahead of where they were four years ago — and elections officials are working hard to keep up.

Workers at the Durham County Board of Elections process absentee ballot requests while maintaining safety during the coronavirus pandemic in Durham, N.C. on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
File, Ben McKeown / For WUNC

Few people, if anyone, track voting data in North Carolina more closely than Michael Bitzer. The Catawba College political scientist posts near daily upates on his Old North State Politics blog, crunching the latest numbers from elections officials across the state. And Bitzer's steady stream of tweets make something very clear: 2020 is shaping up to be very different from previous presidential election years.

A picture of a poultry house.
Joe Valbuena / USDA

Flood-prone counties in eastern North Carolina, already home to vast swine farms, have seen massive growth in the size and volume of industrial-scale poultry operations over the past eight years, according to a new a study released by a coalition of environmental advocacy groups.

File photo of polling worker as she enters a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, April 24, 2019 as early voting began in the Republican primary election for the North Carolina 9th Congressional District, a special election that was forced after l
Chuck Burton / AP

Anne Moebes signed up to work at a polling site in Buncombe County for the March 3 primaries, just before the coronavirus pandemic really hit the United States. It was her first time volunteering as a poll worker and she ended up serving as a precinct judge.

A masked woman looks out her window.
Victoria Bouloubasis for Enlace Latino NC/Southerly

According to a recent poll from Elon University, Governor Roy Cooper has way more support among Democrats for his mandate to wear masks in public.

Ninety-one percent of Democrats who responded to the survey -- versus 57% of Republicans -- support such a policy. But the poll results are less clear when it comes to reopening schools this fall.

Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

North Carolina is just one of five states this year with concurrent races for the presidency, U.S. Senate and the governorship. Protesters demanding police reform and racial justice, and the pandemic from the coronavirus, could impact how these elections turn out.


Protesters and police in riot gear face off at demonstrations on Sunday night in Raleigh.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Images and video from Saturday and Sunday nights in Raleigh have ricocheted across the internet. Cameras captured heavily armored police and sheriff’s deputies pushing protesters with sticks, the air thick with tear gas. On Sunday, Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin criticized the rioting and looting that took place.

Vote Here sign
Erik Hersman / Creative Commons https://bit.ly/1ezRl1S

North Carolina is accustomed to deep partisan divisions over elections law. Republicans and Democrats, along with voting rights advocates, have been battling at the Legislature and in court over issues like redistricting and voter ID for most of the past decade.

Dan Meyer, left, of Raleigh, NC, waits one hour to pick up a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday at Flying Biscuit in Raleigh's Cameron Village.
Kate Medley / For WUNC

A Friday morning meeting of the state's popularly elected department heads had a partisan edge to it as members of the Council of State's GOP majority questioned Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on their plan for easing coronavirus-related public health restrictions.

Creative Commons / PxHere

Back in January, Joyce McKinney had things all worked out for her 10-year-old daughter, Amelia.

Duke Health's Raleigh Hospital
Duke Medicine

Hospitals in North Carolina are ready to start seeing more non-COVID-19 patients as state public health restrictions are slowly being eased.

Hospitals paused certain elective procedures and clinic visits back in mid-March. All part of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to conserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment, like gowns and masks.

Protestor holds a sign that reads 'end the tyranny.'
Kate Medley / For WUNC

State lawmakers are working out details − and their differences − on legislation to distribute more than $1 billion dollars in coronavirus relief funds.

State lawmakers began session Tuesday as REOpenNC protesters gathered on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh.
Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

The state House and Senate are split over how much COVID-19 relief to provide in the immediacy. The discord may be typical, but it's hardly business at usual on West Jones Street in Raleigh.

The General Assembly will need to reach agreement on the amount to earmark for small business loans and whether to provide COVID-19 medical coverage for those in the healthcare gap.

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