On Tuesday, North Carolina voters cast ballots in the last of three municipal elections this year in the state’s first elections with Voter ID requirements in place. Municipal elections were held in 465 municipalities in 86 counties across the state.

At 1 pm on Wednesday, State Board of Elections staff will conduct random accuracy checks at some precincts hand-counting ballots, including absentee-by-mail. According to a press release from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, staff will randomly select the precincts for accuracy checks as part of a statutorily required post-election audit.

lower turnout

While turnout data from Tuesday is not yet available, the turnout for 2023’s off-year September and October municipal elections was down compared to 2021 and 2019. September’s municipals yielded a voter turn out of 4.9% with October at 10.6% turnout. In 2021, municipal elections had 9% and 16% turnout. In 2019, it was 13% and 16% turnout.

Tuesday’s ballot had candidates for local government offices, including mayor and town council members, along with referenda on bonds and property taxes. Of note among the races, state senator Mike Woodard, D-Durham, lost his bid in Durham’s mayoral race 63% to 38% to Leo Williams. In Rocky Mount, Sandy Roberson, former 2022 candidate for Congressional District 1, was re-elected as mayor.

Among the close races from Tuesday evening, there were three seats on the ballot for Sylva Town Council and that third seat shows Blitz Estridge and Ben Guiney tied at 16.82%.

In Mecklenburg County’s town of Cornelius, the mayor race is separated by just 13 votes as of Wednesday morning, with incumbent Woody Washam ahead by .23%

Woody Washam, Jr.2,76749.79%
Denis P. Bilodeau2,75449.56%

The municipal elections this fall are the first test of the state’s new Voter ID laws, handily passed by North Carolina voters in a 2018 ballot referendum, but not implemented until this year after multiple lawsuits claimed that requiring an ID was a barrier to voting.

voter ID rules

In April, the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced that identification would be required in the 2023 municipal elections. The announcement followed a 5-2 decision from the Republican-majority North Carolina Supreme Court on the state’s voter ID court case, Holmes v. Moore, overturning the outgoing Democrat-majority court’s decision that blocked implementation of the law. So far, there have not been reports of problems with the ID requirement implementation.

“Despite fearmongering by voter ID opponents, there were no major problems with its rollout in municipal elections,” said Dr. Andy Jackson, Director, Civitas Center for Public Integrity. “Those results will undercut the ongoing federal lawsuit seeking to overturn voter ID. I do not foresee problems during the 2024 election either.”

Here’s how it works: Voters are asked for a form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license. Other common forms of acceptable ID include military or veterans ID cards issued by the federal government and college student and public employer ID cards.

Those who do not show ID can still vote with a provisional ballot and fill out an ID exception form. Voters can then return to the county board of elections after Election Day and before the county canvas on November 17 and show an ID to have their ballot counted.

Voters who vote by mail must include a photocopy of their ID when they return their ballot or can also fill out an ID exception form explaining why they can’t include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. 

Candidate filing for the 2024 general election begins December 4 and continues through noon on December 15. Races on the ballot for next November 5 include all of North Carolina’s congressional races, president, governor, council of state, and the entire state legislature.

North Carolina’s primary is now on Super Tuesday, March 5, making the state among the fifteen more influential states in the presidential election.