As North Carolinians await final results in key political battles in an unprecedented election year, state officials say it's business as usual.
5.5 million ballots were cast in North Carolina – a turnout of more than 74% of registered voters – and the state saw more mail-in ballots than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Valid absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day – and delivered by the Postal Service through Nov. 12 – must still be counted.
About 117,000 requested absentee ballots are still outstanding, but officials don't know how many of those were actually returned.
And elections board chairman Damon Circosta says county officials will conduct hand-to-eye audits of random ballots.
“This work will include county-level canvass meetings on Nov. 13 and a state board certification meeting on Nov. 24,” Circosta said.
Karen Brinson Bell, the executive director for the State Board of Elections, said Wednesday that “with very few exceptions” the state’s election results will not change until Nov. 12 or 13 when all mail-in ballots are counted.
Demonstrators gathered in Durham and Hillsborough on Wednesday to protest Republican lawsuits intended to stop counting of ballots in the general election.
Fast food worker and labor rights activist Bertha Bradley was one of several speakers who addressed the crowd in Durham, urging them to insist that all votes be counted.
"President Trump and other politicians may want to pick and choose how votes will be counted. They tried to make us afraid," Bradley said. "They tried to use racism to divide us. They think they can bully us and cheat us into taking this election. But they are so wrong. We are not. We are not afraid; we will not be divided."
The presidential race is one of a few in North Carolina that has yet to be called. Donald Trump leads former vice president Joe Biden by about 76,000 votes with the outstanding mail-in ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots left to be counted.
In addition to the presidential races, voters are eagerly waiting the final results of the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Thom Tillis and challenger Cal Cunningham, four state legislative races and the race for state Attorney General between incumbent Josh Stein and challenger Jim O’Neill. Two seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court are also still too close to call.
State elections officials are urging the public to be patient as counting procedures unfold. Results won't be officially final until late next week and the state certification meeting on Nov. 24.