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Why is North Carolina taking so long to count votes?

Counting votes can be a bit slower in North Carolina because the state allows more time, compared to other states, to count absentee and provisional ballots.

State law dictates individual counties have until Nov. 13 to report results from ballots tied to Tuesday’s election. But county election boards must also stick to a strict meeting schedule that is outlined by state law. And ballots are not counted until those meetings.

Nine county election boards met for their scheduled meetings to count absentee ballots for the first time since Election Day. 

“This is the process we always go through and that we must go through under state law,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the Tate Board of Elections in a statement released Friday afternoon.

State law requires county elections boards to schedule post-election absentee board meetings at least two weeks before Election Day, so the boards cannot meet sooner to count addition ballots. A county board cannot modify the meeting schedule after the election.

And ballots will continue to be counted as they arrive at the county boards as long as they are postmarked on or before Election until the Nov. 13 deadline.

A voter waits to cast a ballot at the Graham Civic Center polling location in Graham, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A voter waits to cast a ballot at the Graham Civic Center polling location in Graham, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Most of the state’s 100 county boards won’t count ballots until their post-election meetings next Thursday or Friday.

But nine counties that met Friday to count about 4,300 ballots could show whether absentee ballots might break for Democrats or Republicans. 

In Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, election officials spent Friday evening reviewing a few thousand ballots. A small room was packed with media, elections officials and a handful of observers. The results are then reported to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which has posted unofficial results since the polls first closed Tuesday evening. 

 As of Friday morning, North Carolina reported a potential 99,000 absentee ballots that remain outstanding.

These are ballots that were sent out, but could have been mailed back, never returned, or include people who chose to discard their ballot and vote in person on Election Day.

“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,” a spokesperson for the state Board of Elections said in a news release.

North Carolina Republicans have called on the state to move faster, as President Trump and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have maintained leads in their respective contests. 

The campaign manager for Cal Cunningham, the Democratic opponent in the Senate race, rejected Tillis’ claim he had won a second term.

“The State Board of Elections is continuing to count ballots, and we plan to allow that process to be carried out, so every voter can have their voice heard,” said Devan Barber.

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