Due to changes made to state election laws in SB 747, in-person early voting results will be reported later than in previous years; this may also delay election day results.
In previous years, the county board of elections could tabulate early voting before the close of polls and report those results almost immediately at 7:30 pm when polls closed.

Under SB 747, the county boards must now wait until 7:30 pm to “close the polls” on early voting tabulators and begin counting and reporting ballots cast during the early voting period. Due to the March 5 primary being the first election held under SB 747, officials are uncertain of how long a delay in reporting results will be. As the night proceeds, state board staff will monitor the situation and assist county boards if needed.

The Republican Party is making a big push to expand early voting participation this year and is emphasizing the importance of “banking your vote,” the Carolina Journal reported. Democrats have historically held an advantage in early and absentee voting rates.

In-person, early voting ends at 3 pm on March 2, with same-day voter registration available. 

“Those who watch election results in North Carolina have come to expect a large chunk of results very soon after polls close,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections in the press release. “That will not happen this year, although the State Board and county boards of elections remain committed to providing unofficial results as quickly as possible. We ask for patience from voters and candidates as election officials comply with changes to election laws that affect election night processes.”

Under SB 747, while early voting cannot be tabulated before the polls close, absentee mail-in ballots can be. Absentee voting results will most likely be the first to appear publicly in any county following the close of polls. Absentee results will include any absentee ballots returned to the county board of elections before election day.  

According to state law, ballots returned on election day are added to vote totals under the canvass occurring 10 days after election day. 

Changes under SB 747 require absentee ballots to be returned to the voter’s county board of elections no later than 7:30 pm on election day. Under the previous law, if a ballot were put in the mail on election day and correctly postmarked, it would be counted if it arrived by the third day after election day. Under the new law, absentee voters are encouraged to place their ballots in the mail with adequate time to arrive at the county board of elections by election day. 

 “Election night marks the beginning of the statutorily required vote-counting and auditing processes after every election, called ‘canvass,’” according to the press release.

Canvass is the process that ensures votes have been counted correctly and required audits have been completed; this process culminates in the certification of results during every county board of elections. The law requires that these canvass meetings be held by each county board on Friday, March 15. On Tuesday, March 26, the state board will meet to finalize election results.

More information on the election night reporting timeline can be found here.