Presidential race in North Carolina still up for grabs, and may not be officially decided for a week

EXPLAINER: Why AP hasn’t called North Carolina

North Carolina winner to be declared next week

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - The fight for votes in North Carolina in the 2020 presidential election is still up for grabs and the state’s choice for president might not be officially known for a week.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are locked in a tight race with several states too close to call including North Carolina.

The race is so tight that the Associated Press says they are not yet declaring a winner in North Carolina’s presidential contest. Trump prematurely claimed that he won the state.

North Carolina Board of Elections officials held a press conference Wednesday regarding the post-election process and said they did not have votes yet for about 117,000 people who requested absentee-by-mail ballots.

But now, that number is down to about 99,000 outstanding absentee ballots. This number shrank after officials removed all people who requested a ballot but voted early in-person.

The number of these ballots ultimately returned will be less than 99,000 because some voters cast their ballot in person on Election Day and others likely did not vote at all.

Nine county boards of elections, including Mecklenburg County, are meeting Friday to consider a total of at least 4,300 additional absentee by-mail ballots.

Approved ballots will be added to the unofficial results on the State Board of Elections website after the meetings.

The Election Night Results website is here: https://er.ncsbe.gov/.

Other county boards of elections will continue to meet through Nov. 13 to consider additional absentee by-mail ballots that arrive at their offices through Nov. 12, provided they were postmarked on or before Election Day.

Karen Brinson Bell says NCSBE will continue to update the number of outstanding absentee ballots in a process that may take some time. The State Board will not know how many voters with outstanding absentee ballots voted on Election Day until the county boards of elections complete their regular post-election tasks during the canvass period.

County boards will complete their processes and canvass the election on Nov. 3. The State Board will meet on Nov. 24 to complete its canvass.

County boards of elections cannot meet sooner to count additional ballots because state law requires them to schedule post-election absentee board meetings at least two weeks before Election Day.

The meeting schedule must be published once a week for two weeks in a newspaper. The law does not permit a county board to modify the meeting schedule after the election.

Therefore, there will be a wait until Nov. 12 or Nov 13 for those results.

If valid ballots come in from now through Nov. 12 with problems that cannot be cured, officials say the ballot will be rejected and the voter cannot submit a new ballot.

NC ELECTION UPDATE: Board of Elections officials are discussing the post-election process as Donald Trump and Joe Biden remain locked in a tight race for the presidency » https://bit.ly/3eqmgio

Posted by WBTV News on Wednesday, November 4, 2020

“Nearly 5.5 million ballots were cast and counted,” election officials said. “All eligible ballots have already left the voters' hands.”

Officials say they’re watching to see that those ballots were mailed back and were properly postmarked. According to NCSBE, over 74 percent of registered voters turned out for this election.

“We did break a record with one-stop early voting this election,” election officials said.

Dr. Eric Heberlig, a professor of political science and public administration at UNC Charlotte, spoke to WBTV about the impact that the absentee ballots can have on a political contest, specifically the race for president.

“That margin of request is larger than the margin between say Trump and Biden some of the other statewide races,” explained Heberlig.

According to data from the state board of elections, Trump currently holds a 76,701 vote lead over Biden in North Carolina. Heberlig thinks it would be tough for Biden to overtake Trump with votes obtained through the outstanding absentee ballots.

“It’s probably unlikely that there will be enough of them to change the presidential race or the senate race,” noted the professor.

He said there could be enough ballots to swing a contest with tighter margins like the race for state attorney general. Incumbent Josh Stein only leads challenger Jim O’Neill by 10,769 votes.

While other battleground states have been called for candidates prior to official results being known, North Carolina remains up in the air. Heberlig said the location where absentee ballots are being mailed from can determine when a race is called. He used the state of Michigan as an example.

“Most of ballots left are from Detroit. They’re not going to flip the election back to Trump. They’re, if anything, only going to widen Biden’s lead. Where in North Carolina, our votes, our absentee requests, are spread out more all over the state and therefore are not likely to provide a dominant outcome on behalf of one of the candidates,” elaborated the professor.

After a man in Union County claimed that he voted twice, election officials said they had a “very small” number of individuals that they’re researching to determine if they did double vote or if there was any issue with how their ballots were processed.

President Trump won South Carolina early into election night Tuesday. As of Wednesday, Trump had 2,732,104 votes equal to 49.98 percent of the vote, while Biden has 2,655,392 votes equal to 48.57 percent of the vote in North Carolina.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this article. All rights reserved.