The North Carolina Board of Elections held a meeting on Thursday and heard from candidates in two different Democratic primary races appealing their respective counties’ election protest decisions.

In Charlotte’s District 41 race for state Senate, Lucille Puckett argues opponent Caleb Theodros did not establish residency in the district. Theodros won the race with about 43% of the vote, with Puckett garnering about 31% of the vote. She appealed to the state after Mecklenburg County’s unanimous decision to deny her a hearing.

North Carolina law requires state Senate candidates to have been a citizen of the state for at least two years and lived within their district for at least one year prior to the general election. Theodros was previously a resident of District 40 but claims to have moved in July 2023. However, he did not update his voter registration to his new address until the end of November, opening the door for Puckett’s protest.

After hearing arguments, the state board voted 4-1 to move forward with an evidentiary hearing. It’s now up to the Mecklenburg County Board to hold an evidentiary hearing to gather needed facts to make a final decision.

While Puckett reasoned that the board has the power to fact-check by gathering more information to confirm her opponent’s residency, Theodros argued that the appeal lacks substantial evidence and fails to uphold the integrity of the electoral process.

“Without an evidentiary hearing, I’m not quite sure how we would resolve this otherwise,” said state board member Stacy Eggers IV.

The second protest concerns a race further east for Bladen County Commissioner in District 1. Candidate Ophelia Munn-Goins won by just 31 votes, prompting opponent Keith Graham to protest the outcome. He cited delayed elections and alleged voters were given the wrong ballot due to errors made by poll workers. Attorney Katelin Kaiser represented Graham in the election protest appeal on Thursday, arguing that he has established probable cause and requesting a full evidentiary hearing. Ultimately, Graham is calling for a new election.

“We are encouraged to have an evidentiary hearing so we can uncover the full extent of what actually has gone on and how many voters were impacted,” said Kaiser.

Representing herself at the virtual meeting, Munn-Goins said that Graham is “asking for something because he did not get enough votes.” She said Bladen County’s decision should stand because all voters were allowed to vote in their districts fairly and with ample time.

In a split decision, the state board denied Graham’s appeal. While one board member expressed concerns over the disparities at the early voting sites, another member called the appeal a “fishing expedition.” The board noted that Bladen County election officials need to be reporting issues to the state board as they arise.