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Election Law @ Moritz

Election Law @ Moritz


2008 Key Questions for Key States

North Carolina

The complete research by Election Law @ Moritz for North Carolina can be found below.

Institutional Arrangements

State Chief Election Authorities

Bipartisan appointed board

Chief election authority: State Board of Elections. § 163-22.

Method of selection: Appointed by governor. § 163-19. Not more than three of the five board members may be of the same political party.

Current officer: N/A (Last updated 1/1/08)

State High Court Composition

R leaning/elected

Method of selection: Election. N.C.G.S.A. Art. IV, § 16. Unexpired terms are filled by gubernatorial appointment. N.C.G.S.A. Art. IV, § 19.

Justices: Patricia Timmons-Goodson (D), Edward Thomas Brady (R), Mark Martin (R), Sarah Parker (D), Robert H. Edmunds, Jr. (R), Paul M. Newby (R), Robin E. Hudson (D) (Last updated 12/22/07)

Sources:

  • N.C. high court denies motion to block judge from office, AP Alert – North Carolina, December 19, 2006, Gary D. Robertson, 23:08:29.
  • Court rejects out-of-precinct ballots, Raleigh News & Observer, February 5, 2005.

Local Administrator Training

Periodic pre-election training/mandatory

Newly appointed directors of county boards of election must attend a four-week training course conducted by the State Board of Elections. NCGSA 163-35. The director must also pass an examination demonstrating sufficient familiarity with election law and procedures. NCGSA 163-82.24. Directors must also receive periodic training once in each odd-numbered year and twice in each even-numbered year, before important elections. The training is mandatory, but no consequences are prescribed for failure to attend.

Members of the county boards (as opposed to their directors), must also receive training within six months of appointment and then again during the first two years of service. NCGSA 163-82.24.

Who tallies precinct results?

Local election authority - bipartisan

The county board of elections canvasses precinct results. NCGS 163-182.6.  The county board of elections consists of three members appointed by the state board of elections for two-year terms. NCGS 163-30. Not more than two members of the board may be from the same political party.

Who counts provisional ballots?

Local election authority - bipartisan

The county board of elections determines whether to count provisional ballots. NCGS 163-182.2. These three-member boards are appointed by the state board of elections. NCGS 163-30. No more than two members may belong to the same political party.

Who performs state canvass?

Special canvassing commission - appointed/bipartisan

The state board of elections performs the state canvass. NCGS 163-182.5.  The state board of elections consists of five members appointed by the governor. NCGS 163-9. Not more than three members of the board may be of the same political party.

Local Administrator

County board - bipartisan

At the local level, North Carolina elections are run by three-member county boards of elections. NCGS 163-30. The members are appointed by the state board of elections. Not more than two members of the board may belong to the same political party.

Local Administrators' Party Affiliation

D heavy/appointed

County Population Administrator/affiliation Selection Voting technology
Mecklenburg County 771,617 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S iVotronic touchscreen
Wake County 719,520 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Guilford County 438,795 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S iVotronic touchscreen
Forsyth County 320,919 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Cumberland County 308,489 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Durham County 239,733 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Buncombe County 215,680 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Gaston County 194,459 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
New Hanover County 173,554 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Onslow County 154,297 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Total 3,537,063 (41.4% of total pop.)

Voter Registration

Registration Deadline

25 days before election

The deadline for in-person registration is 5 p.m. on the twenty-fifth day before the election, although the county board of elections may extend that deadline by resolution. NCGSA 163-82.6. For mail registration, the application must be postmarked at least 25 days before the election, although unpostmarked applications will be effective if received not later than 20 days before the election.

Notice of Registration Error

Yes

Incomplete registration forms will trigger a notice to the voter. NCGSA 163.82.4. The voter will also receive notice when the county board is unable to confirm that the applicant provided the correct address and is qualified to vote. NCGSA 163.82.7. If the county board is unable to verify the registrant's address with two consecutive postcard mailings, the board will reject the registration without further notice. No official information was found regarding whether notice is sent out when driver's license or social security numbers cannot be verified against outside databases, but the Brennan Center reports that notice does indeed go out in this circumstance.

Opportunity to Correct after Registration Deadline

Depends

Omissions of information may be corrected up until 5 p.m. on the day before the county canvass. NCGSA 163.82.4. Any provisional ballot cast during the interim will count if the correction occurs. However, in contrast to omissions, incorrect information may have different consequences. For instance, if the county board is unable to confirm the address and qualifications of the voter, the code does not say that the voter has an opportunity to correct this problem after the deadline, and the question may depend on local practice. NCGSA 163.82.7. The Brennan Center reports that, if officials are unable to verify the applicant's social security or driver's license number against outside databases, the voter cannot correct this problem after the deadline. However, no official information confirming this was found.

HAVA matching standards

Hybrid standard

North Carolina has two matching processes, one for applicants who submit driver's license numbers (or state ID numbers) on their registration applications, and one for applicants who submit social security numbers on their applications.  The driver's license process does not require an exact match, but the social security process does. According to a state board of elections official, there is a 98.7% successful match rate with the DMV database.  The Social Security database generally has a lower rate of successful matches.

Source: Phone Conversation, State Board of Elections office, August 7, 2008.

Will the inability to verify social security number or driver's license number prevent registration?

Voter may cast an ordinary ballot after showing ID at polls

The voter is still registered but must provide the HAVA-required ID at the polls when they show up to vote. NCGS 163-166.12. If they do not have ID, they can cast a provisional ballot and return with ID anytime before canvas day and the ballot will be counted.

Source:  Phone conversation, State Board of Elections.

 

Challenges

Pre-election challenges

Challenges decided by local election official

Any registered voter may challenge the eligibility of any other voter in the county by filing a petition with local election officials. NCGS 163-84. The deadline for such challenges is twenty-five days before an upcoming election. NCGS 163-85. Officials will set a preliminary hearing and, if they determine there is probable cause to believe the voter is not qualified, will schedule a full hearing (notice must be sent at least 10 days before the hearing. The burden of proof rests on the challenger, but a returned piece of mail sent by officials to the challenged voter is prima facie evidence that the voter no longer resides at the address where the letter was sent. NCGSA 163-85. The decision may be appealed to the courts within 10 days.

Election day challenges

Successfully challenged voter must cast a provisional ballot

Registered voters may challenge other voters in the precinct on election day. NCGS 163-87. Poll workers may also make challenges at their assigned polling place regardless of their place of residence. The challenger must know, suspect or reasonably believe that the challenged voter is not qualified and entitled to vote. NCGS 163-90.1. This must be substantiated by affirmative proof or the presumption shall be that the voter is properly registered or affiliated. The challenged voter must take an oath affirming his or her qualifications to vote. NCGS 163-88. If the poll workers are satisfied that the challenged voter is a legal voter, they shall overrule the challenge and allow him or her to vote. If poll workers sustain the challenge, the voter may request to vote a challenged ballot which will only be counted in an election contest if found valid. NCGS 163-88.1. A decision by a county board of elections on any challenge is appealable to the Superior Court of the county within 10 days. NCGS 163-90.2. Only challengers and challenged voters shall have standing to file such appeal. Falsifying an affidavit is a felony. NCGS 163-90.3.

Provisional Ballots

Provisional ballot - name not in poll book

Ballot will count if voter was registered and eligible

Provisional ballots will count for all races in which the voter was registered and eligible to vote.  NCGSA 163-166.11.

Provisional ballot - voter cast ballot in wrong precinct

Ballot may be at least partially counted

In North Carolina, provisional votes cast in the wrong precinct will count, but only for those offices in which the voter was eligible to cast a ballot.  NCGSA 163-182.2.

Provisional Ballot Casting Rate - 2006

1-2 percent of ballots cast at polls

1.36%

Provisional Ballot Counting Rate - 2006

70-80 percent

74.5%

Early and Absentee Voting

Convenience Voting

Early voting and "no excuse" absentee voting

Early voting begins on the third Thursday prior to election day and ends at 1 p.m. on the last Saturday before the election.  NCGS 163-226.

Any voter may cast an absentee ballot.  NCGS 163.226.  The ballot request must be received by 5 p.m. on the Tuesday prior to the election.  NCGS 163.230.1.  Completed ballots must be received by 5 p.m. on the day before the election.  NCGS 163.234.

Voting Technology

Voting Technology

Mostly OS

County Population Administrator/affiliation Selection Voting technology
Mecklenburg County 771,617 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S iVotronic touchscreen
Wake County 719,520 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Guilford County 438,795 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S iVotronic touchscreen
Forsyth County 320,919 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Cumberland County 308,489 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Durham County 239,733 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Buncombe County 215,680 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Gaston County 194,459 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
New Hanover County 173,554 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Onslow County 154,297 Bipartisan board Appointed by State BOE ES&S M100 OS
Total 3,537,063 (41.4% of total pop.)

Does state law require a VVPAT?

Yes

North Carolina does require that voting machines produce VVPAT. NCGS 163-165.7

Polling Place Operations

Who are poll workers?

Appointed by local administrator/some minority party representation

The county board of elections appoints three poll workers for each precinct. NCGS 163-41. Both political parties must be represented. The appointments are generally made from lists submitted by the county chairpersons of the two major political parties. If the recommendations are received by the 5th day before appointment, the county board of elections must appoint from those lists. Otherwise the board may appoint registered voters by unanimous vote. The county board of elections may also appoint two or more assistants and precinct ballot counters to aid the other poll workers. NCGS 163-42, 163-43.

Poll worker training

Prior to each election

County officials are required to hold instructional meetings before each primary and election and poll workers must attend unless excused by the local administrator. NCGSA 163-46. North Carolina's election code does not include specific requirements for the content of poll worker training. The State Board of Elections is required to promulgate rules for the conduct of poll worker training by county boards but it has not done so. NCGSA 163-82.24. A state official revealed to electionline.org that training is indeed left to the counties, but training materials are derived from state law and State Board of Elections precinct uniformity materials. Interestingly, the State Board of Elections is working with community colleges on an elective course in precinct official certification with the goal of having at least one certified official in each precinct.

North Carolina hosts online poll worker training for all of the counties here.

Polling hours extension

Local administrators may extend

North Carolina polling hours are set by statute. N.C.G.S.A. § 163-166.01. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. but county boards of elections may extend closing time to 8:30 p.m. All ballots cast after 7:30 p.m. either by such order of the county officials or by state or federal court order, must be cast provisionally and kept apart from other provisional and regular ballots. A federal court ruled in a 1992 case that there was no equal protection violation redressable in federal court when state superior courts ordered the extension of polling hours in alleged contravention of state law. Lake v. State Bd. of Elections of North Carolina, 798 F.Supp. 1199, 1207 (M.D.N.C.,1992). Rather, the court stated this was a matter purely for state courts to decide, because state law provides for the conduct of elections and remedying of election problems in the state. "Federal intervention to attempt to rectify any injury done here would require the undoing of a completed election, a remedy properly reserved to the State of North Carolina and available under its election laws."

North Carolina has an election emergency provision but it does not include extension of polling hours as an option in such cases. NCGS 163-27.1. Among their duties, local election officials are to perform "such other duties as may be prescribed by... the rules of the State Board of Elections." N.C.G.S.A. § 163-33(12). The State Board of Elections is authorized to make rules for the conduct of elections. N.C.G.S.A. 163-22; 163-22.2. Such rules may not conflict with North Carolina election law.

Any person in line at the close of polls can vote. 08 NCAC 10B.0105.

Polling place closing times - local times

7:30 PM local time

Polling place closing times - by Eastern time zone

7:30 PM Eastern time

Ballot Security

Voter ID requirements

Only HAVA ID required

North Carolina requires only the minimum ID required by HAVA. This requirement applies only to voters who are voting in a North Carolina federal election for the first time, who registered to vote by mail, who did not produce ID at the point of registration, and whose identities were not verified in the statewide voter registration database by comparing the information on the voter registration form against information contained in social security or state motor vehicles databases. NCGS 163-166.12. The voter must show one of the following: (1) a current and valid photo identification, (2) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.

Consequences of failure to present ID

Voters must cast provisional ballot

If an individual that is required to present identification in order to vote does not present the required identification, the individual may cast a provisional ballot. NCGS 163-166.12. However, note that only first-time voters who registered by mail and were not verified by North Carolina's HAVA database matching system need to present ID.

Follow-up required of voter

Voter must return with ID

To ensure that their ballot is counted, the voter must return with ID.

Source:  Phone conversation, North Carolina State Board of Elections, August 7, 2008.

Emergency Preparedness

Natural Disasters or Emergencies

Election-specific emergency provision

The Executive Director of the State Board of Elections, the chief elections officer of the state, has emergency power to hold elections in a district where the originally scheduled election was disrupted by: 1) natural disaster, 2) extremely inclement weather, or 3) armed conflict.  NCGS 163-27.1.

The code states that the Executive Director "shall" promulgate rules for exercising this emergency power but he or she has not done so. 

Ballot Shortages

Unclear under state law

North Carolina law is silent as to how to handle ballot shortages on election day and no publicly available procedures could be found.

One county elections director ordered both Democrat and Republican ballots for the 2008 presidential primary for 100% of registered voters to ensure no shortages would occur. Activists worry about ballot shortages, Charleston Gazette, Mar. 31, 2008.  North Carolina requires that administrators print a number of ballots equal to 100% of the voters in a precinct, but only 70% of those ballots are necessarily distributed to precincts (the rest are kept in reserve).  NC ADC 6B.0101.

What if touchscreens break down?

Nothing in code

Local administrators are authorized to provide paper ballots to precincts for curbside, provisional and challenged voters, as well as for "extraordinary circumstances." 8 NC ADC 6B.0102. A number of extraordinary circumstances are listed, but it does not include touchscreen malfunction. Furthermore, written approval is required from the State Board of Elections before such ballots may be issued.

A representative of the North Carolina State Board of Elections indicated that the state has no statewide policy on paper ballots in case of machine malfunction, but that the question is determined by local administrators according to their judgment.

Post-Election Processes

State certification deadline

Fourth week in November

The state board of elections meets at 11:00 a.m. on the Tuesday three weeks after the election to complete the canvass. NCGS 163-182.5. The election must be certified six days after the completion of the canvass. NCGS 163-182.15

Election contest deadline

Other

Election contests generally must be filed with the county board of elections before the county canvass begins. NCGS 163-182.9. However, there are some exceptions. In two situations the deadline is pushed back to 5:00 p.m. on the second business day after the county's declaration of the results: 1) when the filing candidate shows good cause for delay or 2) when the contest concerns an irregularity other than vote counting or result tabulation. Note that the deadline for filing an election contest comes after the local canvass deadline but before the state certification deadline. Most of the other key states' recount and contest filing deadlines come after the state certification.

North Carolina requires that a notice of intent to protest the election of state elective offices be filed with the Principal Clerk of the House of Representatives no later than the latter of 10 days after a certificate of election has been issued or 10 days after the conclusion of the election contest procedure. NCGS 120-10.3, 163-182.13A. These elective offices include governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor, and commissioner of insurance. NC Const Art III § 7.

North Carolina law authorizes election contests generally. NCGS 163-182.9.

Local count deadline

Upon completion of canvass

The county board of elections meets at 11:00 a.m. on the 10th day after the general election in November and at 11:00 a.m. on the 7th day after every other election. NCGS 163-182.5. Upon completion of the canvass, the county board will deliver the results to the State Board of Elections. NCGS 163-182.6

Audit type

Manual

North Carolina audits are performed manually.  NCGS 163-182.1, 163-182.2.  Audits of touchscreens are performed by reviewing the machines' paper trails.

The State Board of Elections randomly selects sample precincts to produce a “statistically significant result.” NCGS 163-182.1, 163-182.2. If there is a discrepancy between the original count and the manual count, the manual count controls (unless there is a specific reason to think it is flawed). NCGS 163-182.1

Audit scope

Other

Elections randomly selects sample precincts to produce a “statistically significant result.” NCGS 163-182.1, 163-182.2. If there is a discrepancy between the original count and the manual count, the manual count controls (unless there is a specific reason to think it is flawed). NCGS 163-182.1

Candidate-requested recounts

Available at 10,000 votes

Candidates for statewide office may request a recount only when the margin of victory is less than 0.5% or 10,000 votes, whichever is less (1% for non-statewide offices). NCGS 163-187.7. North Carolina’s population is approximately 9 million, so the margin of victory would have to be less than 10,000 for a recount to occur. The request must be filed by 12 noon on the second business day following the county canvass (5 p.m. on the first business day for elections that occur solely within one county). NCGS 163-187.7.  Note that the deadline for filing a recount request comes after the local canvass deadline but before the state certification deadline.  Most of the other key states' recount and contest filing deadlines come after the state certification.

Administrative Recounts

Local officials may order

Officials may order a recount when, in their judgment, it is necessary to complete the county or state canvass. NCGS 163-182.7. However, if the state board of elections has already denied to order a recount, the county cannot conduct one of its own.

Automatic Recounts

None

No authorization for automatic recounts was found.

Defintion of a vote

Intent standard

North Carolina law allows the Secretary of State to adopt standards defining exactly what does and does not count as a vote NCGS 163-182.1.  However, no concrete definition of a vote was found in the state administrative code.  Instead, the code states that votes shall be counted unless it is impossible ot determine the voter's choice. 8 NC ADC 6B.0105.

Election Contest Scenario #1: Unverified Ballots

Unclear

Voters are required to sign in before voting. § 163-166.7. However, no information was found regarding whether failure to do so renders the resulting ballots ineligible to be counted. Assuming the unverified ballots are ineligible, officials will probably not be able to withdraw them from the count because they will be inseparably commingled with legal ballots. Courts in some states will use mathematical formulas to try to reduce the effect of such ballots, but no information could be found regarding this practice in North Carolina.  

Election Contest Scenario #2: Provisional Ballots with Technical Mistakes

Unclear

Provisional voters must sign an affirmation that includes a statement that the voter is registered and eligible. §163-166.11. The statute says only that the votes will count where officials determine the voter was eligible, and gives no guidance as to whether or under what circumstances voter error in filling out the affirmation will result in invalidation of the vote.

What Court Would Hear a Presidential Contest?

Other

North Carolina law authorizes election contests generally. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-182.9. Election contests are initially considered by the county board of elections in the county where the action is filed. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-182.9. However, the State Board of Elections may intervene and take jurisdiction. § 163-182.12. State election board officers are appointed by the Governor, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-19, while county board officers are appointed by the State Board of Elections. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-30. 

Who Performs Presidential recounts?

Bipartisan

A Presidential recount would be conducted “under the supervision of the State Board of Elections.” 163-182.7. The State Board of Elections is a five-member board with appointed members. 163-19. No more than three members of the board shall be from one political party. Chairpersons of the state political parties nominate the members and they are appointed by the governor.

Some other types of recounts are conducted by county boards of election. 163-30. This is a three-member board that must include one member of the minority party. Board members are nominated by the chairpersons of state political parties and appointed by the State Board of Elections. 163-30.