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Early in-person pace trails 2020 primary season

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(The Center Square) – North Carolina voters trail the primary pace of 2020 following the close of early in-person voting on Saturday.

More than 690,000 ballots have been cast thus far said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director for the state’s Board of Elections, in a Monday press conference less than 24 hours before Primary Election Day. That’s 9.2% of the total eligible to vote, and over 104,000 fewer compared to the same juncture four years ago.

The total primary turnout in 2020 was over 2.1 million of more than 6.9 million eligible, or 31.2%. More than 7.4 million are registered as of this past Saturday.

Brinson Bell answered multiple questions about the impact of legislation that prevents county elections offices from tabulating early voting results until after the polls close at 7:30 p.m. There’s been a fixation, promoted by the state office, on that element pushing back into the evening by an hour or so the earliest results. Election law changes also wiped out the window after Election Day for late-arriving votes, meaning full unofficial results should be known Tuesday night.

“We don’t know what to expect,” Bell said of how rapid results will be posted. “What we need to keep in mind is how this process works. Small counties have little staff. They’re taking calls from the public, from the voting places, while they are also trying to work with board members to get those early results tabulated. We’re going to ask for patience. The larger counties, we anticipate it may take longer because they have more precincts.”

She added, “With Election Day results, our goal is to be expedient as possible, but the primary objective is to be accurate. Even without this change, Election Day results are not going to be posted until 8:30 at the earliest, maybe 9. All results are brought to the election headquarters, and then uploaded. You have to allow for the tabulation time, the drive time.”

Voters have many races to decide this election cycle, a large majority of which will have primaries. By November, decisions will be reached on the president; 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives; the state’s governor and nine other Council of State seats; and several down-ballot races.

The threshold to avoid runoffs and a second primary on May 14 in 10 weeks is win Tuesday with 30% plus one vote. Short of that, the runner-up can request a runoff.

Bidding to advance to November in the governor’s race are Republicans Mark Robinson, Dale Folwell and Bill Graham in one primary, and Democrats Josh Stein, Mike Morgan and three longshots in the other.

There will be at least five changes coming to the 10-member Council of State, and possibly more. In addition to the governor’s race, primaries will determine candidates in November in races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, insurance commissioner, secretary of state, secretary of labor, auditor, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is in his second four-year term, the limit of consecutive terms allowed. In addition to the governor, the lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, and labor commissioner are either not running for reelection or are running for different offices. The term of the auditor is being finished by Jessica Holmes, and she has filed to run for the seat permanently.

Congressional seats, of which the state has 14, will also grab headlines. The 6th Congressional District race includes six Republicans, and the primary winner will not face a Democrat in November. That means Bo Hines, Mark Walker, Christian Castelli, Dr. Mary Ann Contogiannis, Jay Wagner and Addison McDowell are battling for the Beltway now rather than this fall.

The 1st Congressional District, of all redrawn, is considered the most competitive and a toss-up by those that study the leanings of voters. Republicans Laurie Buckhout and Sandy Smith are considered formidable to turn the seat red against Democratic incumbent Rep. Don Davis in November.

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