Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election

A mural in downtown Goldsboro. (Photo by Billy Ball)

By Billy Ball, Sarah Ovaska, Michael McElroy, Max Millington

October 16, 2020

Biden or Trump? Cooper or Forest? Blue or red? Look here for up-to-date news and analysis on North Carolina’s historic 2020 election. 

Our live blog here will offer up-to-the-minute updates on these races and more as we approach Election Day on Nov. 3. We’ll offer not only the latest numbers, but analysis to help you understand what it all means. 

Early voting began Thursday, Oct. 15 and will run through Oct. 31. But for more information on voting, head over to Cardinal & Pine’s landing page for voter information, providing crucial news on voting litigation, voting procedures, and testimonials from voters just like you. 

Happy voting!

At the Finish Line, Newby Holds the Smallest of Leads

[updated Nov. 17, 2020, 10:45 a.m.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (center) of the NC Supreme Court, with her Republican challenger Paul Newby beside her. (Photo from Beasley campaign).

With nearly all counties having completed the canvassing process, Republican Paul Newby leads Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley by 367 votes in the race for chief justice of the NC Supreme Court. The lead switched back and forth between the candidates all week as elections officials released batches of absentee and provisional ballots, and though Newby seems to have come out on top, the difference is so small Beasley can request a recount.

North Carolinians cast 5,545,735 votes as of 10:41 a.m., and this all-important election will come down to a margin of 0.00007%, a fitting reminder of why every vote matters.

As NC Winds Down Ballot Counting, Chief Justice Race Tightens

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. A federal judge has blocked updated North Carolina absentee voting rules that gave voters more leeway to fix witness problems and extended the period when elections boards could accept mailed-in ballots. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

[updated Nov. 11, 2020, 11:45 am] There is an end in sight for North Carolina’s official ballot count.

State election officials say another 17 counties will consider at least 7,200 absentee ballots Wednesday. By state law, counties have until Friday (Nov. 13) to count and certify remaining ballots. State election officials will certify the results Nov. 24.

There are about 93,000 unreturned absentee ballots in the state, although it’s unclear how many will be returned. Many might not have voted at all or voted in person. State officials say they will consider 27,500 absentee ballots and 23,091 provision ballots approved by counties that might ultimately count toward the results.

It’s not likely to impact many statewide races other than the election for chief justice of the NC Supreme Court. Incumbent Cheri Beasley now trails Republican Paul Newby by just 974 votes. In a race with more than 5.3 million ballots cast, it doesn’t get much closer, a fitting reminder of why every vote matters.

The count is not likely to change President Donald Trump’s apparent win in North Carolina.

“Only a few days remain for counties to review absentee ballots,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said in a statement. “We want to thank the counties for all of their hard work this election in processing an unprecedented number of by-mail ballots in pandemic conditions.”

Now is a good time to remind folks that these are not new votes. These are, per the US Supreme Court’s order, mailed ballots postmarked on or before Election Day. Given the pandemic, the high court gave postal workers additional time to deliver the mail-in ballots, which must arrive before 5 pm on Thursday, Nov. 12 in order to be counted.

It is also a good time to remind North Carolinians that, with postal delays, all of this was expected.

Cal Cunningham Concedes to Sen. Thom Tillis

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham speaks to supporters in March 2020. The Democratic candidate conceded to Sen. Thom Tillis on Tuesday, Nov. 10. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

[updated Nov. 10, 2020, 4 pm]

Cal Cunningham conceded to Sen. Thom Tillis on Tuesday in NC’s US Senate race, denying Democrats a key part of their plan to recapture the Senate.

Tillis’ lead on Election Day was officially too close to call as the state has until Nov. 12 to count arriving absentee ballots. But Cunningham had no clear path to victory among the some 100,000 ballots remaining. 

In a statement on Tuesday, Cunningham said he called Tillis to congratulate him.

““The voters have spoken and I respect their decision,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham led in most polls ahead of the election, but news broke in October that he had shared sexually suggestive texts with a woman who was not his wife. Though he acknowledged the texts, he virtually disappeared from the campaign trail in the crucial final weeks.

Polls in the last days suggested voters didn’t care much about the texts, but Cunningham lost by just less than 100,000 votes.

Record turnout in NC also brought a historic number of votes for both a winning and losing candidate for US Senate. Though Tillis won re-election with the same percentage of the vote that he won in 2014 (about 48%), he gained more than 1.2 million votes. 

In his statement, Cunningham thanked his campaign team and appealed to the sense of unity President-elect Joe Biden has called for since beating Donald Trump. 

“While the results of this election suggest there remain deep political divisions in our state and nation,” Cunningham said, “the more complete story of our country lies in what unites us: our faith and sense of confidence in our democracy, our civic values and common humanity, our shared aspiration to care for one another, and our belief that we live in a country that does exceptional things.” 

He added: ““Though this isn’t the electoral outcome we worked for, I’ll always be grateful to be a North Carolinian, and I’ll always believe that our country’s best days are ahead.”

Race for NC’s Chief Justice Seat Just Got Even Tighter

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
The race between Paul Newby (third from left) and Cheri Beasley (fourth from left) just got even closer. (Image via Beasley’s campaign Facebook page)

[updated Nov. 9, 2020 at 12 pm] It did not seem possible for the race for NC’s chief justice to get closer. But it just did.

New absentee ballots counted in NC counties have narrowed the race between incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and her challenger, Republican Justice Paul Newby, to just 2,616 votes.

In a race with 5.3 million votes, that’s … about as close as it can get.

The race was separated by fewer than 4,000 votes after Election Day, but as state election officials reported, 10 county boards of elections turned in about 4,750 approved absentee ballots Friday. Another seven county boards of elections are expected to vote on at least 3,200 absentee ballots Monday.

Also, as state officials reported Friday, an additional 30,000 eligible ballots were turned in by counties and have not been approved and counted yet.

Given the way those votes have been breaking so far, it’s reasonable to expect the Beasley-Newby race will get tighter or even flip. In a year in which judicial races broke hard to the right, particularly on the state Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court, Democrats would find that welcome news.

As of this hour, the Supreme Court race between Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Phil Berger Jr. is separated by about 73,000 votes with Berger, the son of state Senate President Phil Berger, leading. The race between incumbent Justice Mark Davis and Republican Tamara Barringer is separated by almost 130,000 with Barringer in front.

As Cardinal & Pine has reported multiple times, this process is playing out exactly as we expected. With the coronavirus pandemic as dangerous as its ever been, the state saw an enormous surge in absentee ballots in the mail. Counties and the state have to review those ballots to make sure they meet statutory requirements, and then they are being added to election night totals.

So before you suggest something fishy is happening—we’re looking at you House Speaker Tim Moore—understand the process. Every ballot should be counted, no matter who they voted for in this election.

Absentee ballots may continue to be returned through Nov. 12 (Thursday) and county boards will finalize decisions on those votes Nov. 13 (Friday). The State Board of Elections will meet to certify the results Nov. 24.

State officials said there will still 94,900 voters who requested absentee ballots but haven’t returned them. The majority of those might well go unreturned because many might have voted on Election Day or didn’t vote at all.

The state will also review more than 40,000 provisional ballots cast on Election Day to determine whether they are eligible.

It remains unlikely, however mathematically possible, for Joe Biden to catch Donald Trump in North Carolina. Trump leads by more than 75,000 votes. Democrat Cal Cunningham is also likely to fall to Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, who is up by more than 95,000 votes.

“We are nearing the finish line,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said in a statement Monday morning. “We ask that the public please be patient as county boards of elections, as required, continue to count all eligible ballots that arrive by mail, conduct thorough post-election audits and certify their results.”

Count every vote. And try to be patient.

(Some) Incoming NC Election Results

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
FILE – In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

[Updated Nov. 6, 2020, 4:45 p.m.] Well North Carolina, looks like we’re going to learn today how a few more thousand North Carolinians voted during the 2020 election.  

The NC State Board of Elections announced Friday afternoon that nine counties will be releasing partial results of valid absentee ballots that have come in since Election Day. Those votes will then be added to the unofficial results portal the State Board of Elections is maintaining here. (Keep hitting that refresh button, folks.) 

It amounts to around 4,300 new ballots, a fraction of the nearly 5.5 million votes that have been cast so far but important as the state  and county election boards work to ensure every vote is counted. 

The biggest batch will come from Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is, and the results from their 3,000 to 5,000 absentee ballots will be released after the county’s bipartisan elections board meets at 5 p.m. The other counties and ballot counts are: Anson (11), Cabarrus (400), Edgecombe (88), Graham (11), Hoke (192), Perquimans (5), Robeson (175), and Sampson (500). Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will still be accepted through Nov. 12, so more ballots could come into these counties

The 4,300 newly-released votes won’t be enough to tell us definitely if North Carolina’s electoral votes are going to President Donald Trump or Joe Biden, nor will it be enough to know if the U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis will stay on or if Democrat Cal Cunningham will take over the Senate position. Both Trump and Tillis are in the lead, but the margins are not big enough to call the race.

But it’s a step in that direction. All county elections boards need to report their absentee total by Nov. 13, next Friday. Until then, we wait.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the total results we’re waiting on in North Carolina, according to the latest information from the State Board of Elections.

·  31,900 absentee, or mailed-in ballots, that came into county election boards right before or since Election Day (but were postmarked by Nov. 3). That 4,300 number above is included in this total.

·   Up to 99,000 absentee ballots that were mailed to voters but have not been returned. This won’t be the total number, as there are people in this count that requested ballots but then decided to vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day.

·   40,766 statewide provisional ballots. Again, not all of these will make the final cut because election staff need to research and see which ones are valid.

We’ll keep updating you over here at Cardinal & Pine.

Here’s how to make sure your vote was counted in North Carolina

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 29: A woman walks pass campaign signs displayed outside an early voting location at Kiwanis Recreation Center on October 29, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

[updated Nov. 6, 2020, 12:30 pm] Want to know if your ballot was received and counted? Here’s how.

You can go to this Voter Search tool on the State Board of Elections. Fill out your information, voila, it will reflect your vote and how it was received.

That’s going to work for 4.4 million voters, who either voted by mail (absentee) or during the 17-day early voting period.

But—and please, please pay attention to this part—if you cast a ballot in-person Tuesday at one of the state’s more than 2,000 polling precincts, it won’t show up on this electronic tool just yet. But the ballot was, in almost all cases, received and processed.  

There’s nothing nefarious here, this is just part of the regular process and can take up to a couple of weeks for these rather occupied county election departments to get that information verified and in the system.

If you voted on Election Day and inserted your ballot in the ballot box or tabulator (that essential step before you get that “I Voted” sticker), your vote was counted, said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections in a written statement Thursday. 

The state board sent out an explainer Thursday after saying they, and county election boards, have been inundated with questions from voters with the nation on edge about the results of the presidential election.

 “We respectfully ask that voters trust their bipartisan boards of elections across North Carolina,” Brinson Bell said in a written statement. “We are here to make sure your votes count, and they will.”

Now, If you voted in-person at an early voting site, your “Absentee Status” will show a “valid return” and your “return status” will be “accepted.”

The same goes if you voted by mail.

If you cast a provisional ballot, which means your ballot was set aside for election officials to research, that information will show up this Friday, 10 days after the election in a Provisional Search tool

The takeaway here is to just stay calm and be patient.

Nearly 5.5 million North Carolinians voted in this election, a record 75% of voters, and the routine and regular process to get all of those ballots verified takes a bit.

The Election Over, the Fight to Eliminate Poverty Continues, Rev. Barber Says

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
In this Wednesday, June 24, 2015 photo, Rev. William Barber speaks at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. in this 2015 file photo. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

[Updated Nov. 5, 2020, 3:45 p.m.] With Election Day now over, which brought out record numbers of Americans to cast ballots in the midst of global pandemic, it’s time to get serious about addressing poverty and systemic racism.  

That was the message Thursday in a message to the nation from the leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign, a multi-racial revival of the 1967 campaign led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to empower the nation’s poorest residents. The group worked in the run-up to the election to mobilize the often overlooked population of poor Americans to vote and hold elected leaders accountable in this year’s election.

“Nearly half the citizens in the richest nation of the world, continued to struggle to make ends meet, 140 million and growing,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a co-leader of the non-partisan Poor People’s Campaign and former head of the NC NAACP. “Addressing that is the key to healing America and finishing the illusion of division and polarization.”

The group is organizing Nov. 16 caravans around the country to emphasize the needs of the poorest Americans. They’re also pledging to keep working to organize poor Americans to push for economic and social justice change.

The next focus will include preserving and increasing access to affordable healthcare, a critical issue given the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act with an upcoming US Supreme Court hearing. Any coming COVID-19 vaccines will need to be free and accessible to those at the lower-rungs of the economic ladder, who have been disproportionately struck by the dangerous pathogen, said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign. 

Equally important is the growing movement to enact living wages in local communities and states.

In  Florida, voters on Tuesday supported President Donald Trump’s campaign but also made it the eighth state to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. That shows how universal the support is for policies that will lift people out of poverty, Barber said.

And no matter who is in the Oval Office, the push to dismantle the forces that are holding poorer Americans back needs to continue. 

“We know that we have to fight for the heart and the soul of our democracy,” Theoharis said. “We have no intention of standing down.” 

If his lead holds, Ricky Hurtado will be NC legislature’s only Latino member.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Ricky Hurtado (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

[updated: Nov. 5, 2020, 9 am] Democratic candidate Ricky Hurtado is poised to win his state legislative seat in Alamance County, with a slim lead over the Republican incumbent Stephen Ross.

It is one of the few victories and flipped seats for state legislative Democrats who hoped to gain control of the NC General Assembly, but fell short of that goal. Hurtado will be the only Latino in the state legislature if he holds on to his lead. 

Hurtado, 31, is a son of Salvadoran immigrants who was a Morehead-Cain scholar when he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a prestigious merit scholarship at the state’s flagship campus. Hurtado, who also obtained a master’s degree from Princeton University, now works as an instructor at UNC and co-leads an education initiative to help first-generation and immigrant college students.

His state House race was incredibly close. Unofficial results show Hurtado with just a 395 vote lead, in a race in which 40,133 votes were cast. (Outstanding absentee ballots and provisional ballots may change that total when the final election results are certified later this month).

The legislative district is based in Alamance County, where police deployed pepper-spray onto marchers with a peaceful get-out-the-vote rally this past weekend after they knelt to commemorate George Floyd, the Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Latinos have been targets of racist sentiments in the county as well, with the elected Republican Sheriff Terry Johnson facing a rare suit from federal civil rights prosecutors under the Obama Administration accusing him of using his office to illegally target Latino residents. Johnson was ultimately not found responsible in a 2014 bench trial in front of a federal judge and went on to win re-election twice more. 

Hurtado and progressive organizers campaigned on a message of change in the county, and Hurtado tweeted late Tuesday that his expected win was a sign of progressive change. 


Mark Robinson is NC’s First Black Lieutenant Governor

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Mark Robinson won election Tuesday night as NC’s lieutenant governor.

[updated Nov. 4, 2020, 10 am] While election night ended with many North Carolina races too close to call, the race for the next lieutenant governor has been decided. 

Republican Mark Robinson will become North Carolina’s first Black lieutenant governor after a close race with four-term state Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley. 

Robinson has yet to give any public statements but when asked about the historic moment, before he was elected, Robinson said: “I think other young people seeing me achieve this goal I think it really will encourage many people of color to step up and step out.”

The conservative Robinson, a gun rights activist, bashed Black voters for voting Democrat and has unapologetically shared racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and misogynistic views on social media. Robinson has largely been critical of the way Gov. Roy Cooper has handled COVID-19. 

State Senate Seat Flips to Democrats

[updated Nov. 4, 2020, Midnight] Though Democrats in the state didn’t bring in the wins they hoped to in the state legislature, they did have some bright spots.

Among them: Sarah Crawford, a Raleigh Democrat who flipped her Senate race that covers portions of Wake and Franklin counties.

Crawford had 52% of the vote, over Republican Larry Norman (45%), and Libertarian Jason Loeback (3%), according to initial results released Tuesday night by the State Board of Elections.

Republicans held onto control of the both houses of the state legislature.

The Senate Republican leader, Phil Berger, said he hoped to move away from the bitter disputes that had marked recent years.

“I hope over the next two years we see a departure from the divisive partisan lawsuits that have hamstrung attempts at good faith negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and the executive branch,” Berger said in a written statement late Tuesday night.

Roy Cooper wins re-election

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper makes a comment during a live televised debate with and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

[updated: Nov. 4, 2020, 12:03 am] This one’s in the books.

Most outlets are now calling the governor’s race for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who never trailed his opponent Dan Forest in even a single poll. Cooper, who won an extraordinarily tight race in 2016, looked consistently bullish in polling throughout the year. Indeed, voters overwhelmingly approved of Cooper’s handling of the novel coronavirus.

No word from Cooper’s camp yet, but state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin applauded the news Tuesday night.

“North Carolinians have chosen to re-elect Governor Roy Cooper, a fighter for working families who is committed to moving our state forward,” Goodwin said in a statement. “Since 2016, Governor Cooper has fought for a better educated, healthier, and more prosperous North Carolina where people can have more money in their pockets and opportunities to live with purpose and abundance. In a second term, Governor Cooper will continue to prioritize raising teacher pay, expanding Medicaid, and strengthening our local economies over corporate tax cuts.”

With 98% of precincts reporting as of 11 pm, Cooper led by more than 240,000 votes.

While North Carolina is leaning toward voting for President Donald Trump and sending Republican Thom Tillis back to the Senate, it will keep a Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

That is a very North Carolina thing to do.

The state also elected Trump and Cooper in 2016, and voted George Bush, a Republican, into the White House, and Mike Easley, a Democrat, as governor in 2000 and 2004. 

Beyond habit, though, the governor’s race overwhelmingly hinged on one main issue: the pandemic. Cooper had wide approval on his handling of the coronavirus, and his approach could not have been much different from Forest’s. 

Cooper issued a mask mandate, kept the state in various levels of shutdown until the numbers got to the levels state health officials were comfortable with, and stood behind the officials, letting the scientists lead the way.

Forest demanded a full reopening of the state at height of the pandemic, rarely wore a mask in public and said more than once that masks didn’t work in fighting the spread of the virus. (They do, and nearly every reputable study shows overwhelming evidence that they do.)

In their only debate of the campaign, the coronavirus and Cooper’s response took center stage. In his opening remarks, Cooper said that while the pandemic had “turned our lives upside down,” Forest had shown a cavalier disregard to the threat, holding his events without social distancing or masks.

“That is reckless,” Cooper said, “and it endangers North Carolinians.” 

Cooper continued, “Politicians like this who hold these in-person events and discourage masks, they are part of the problem. They make it harder for us to ease our safety measures, harder for us to get our children back in school where they need to be and harder for us to slow the spread of this virus.”

As he did in most of his public appearances, Forest said at the debate that the focus should be only on the most vulnerable, meaning older residents, and that “everyone else should get back to work.”

Then he compared the coronavirus to the flu.

Voters seemed to agree with Cooper.

Forest was elected as Lt. Gov in 2012, beating Democrat Linda Coleman by just under 7,000 votes. He beat Coleman again in 2016, this time by 300,000 votes. 

Cooper beat Pat McCrory in 2016, winning the votes of 2,309,157 North Carolinians. In his re-election victory he won nearly 500,000 more.

Trump, Republicans surge, but ballots out in Wake County

[updated: Nov. 3, 2020, 10:45 pm]

Get your Tums! North Carolina is as close as we always knew it would be.

At this hour, Trump has surged to take a lead along with Sen. Thom Tillis and a number of Republicans. But here’s the rub, as delivered by NC voting rights attorney, Allison Riggs.

Wake County is home of NC’s capital city, Raleigh. It’s a district that has the potential to swing hard to Democrats. The same goes for outstanding precincts in Greensboro.

For Democrats, early numbers have not been perhaps what they expected in the Tar Heel state. But we always knew an election with this many mail-in ballots would be hard to pinpoint on Election Night. In other words, it is difficult to make assessments until all of the ballots are counted, and at this hour, you’re not sure how many ballots are still waiting to be counted.

Stay tuned.

As numbers roll in, Cooper looks strong. Republicans trending in other key races.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
FILE – In this Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, a worker prepares tabulators for the upcoming election at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. Early in-person voting starts Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in all 100 counties in North Carolina, where the historically popular form of casting ballots has been upstaged this fall by people voting by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, file)

[updated Nov. 3, 2020, 10:02 pm] No races have been called. It is too early in a state that is just too close.

But while Gov. Roy Cooper seems in stable position for re-election, Democrats might be feeling increasingly nervous about their performance in other major races, such as the US Senate race between Thom Tillis and Cal Cunningham.

The state has more than 80% of votes in, and Cooper holds a lead. But Biden has an extraordinarily narrow lead, and Thom Tillis has taken a lead over Cal Cunningham.

Check out the rolling results on Cardinal & Pine’s live map here.

There are votes still to be counted in blue-leaning counties such as Wake and Mecklenburg, but the state still has no votes in from Union County, a major Charlotte suburb that has leaned heavily to Republicans in years past.

If you’re Democrats, you’re probably feeling increasingly pessimistic about the Cunningham race, but there is time remaining.

In East Charlotte: ‘Trump Has Gone Against So Much of What I Stand For.’

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Voters at an east Charlotte precinct say they’re looking for change. (Image by Pat Moran)

[updated Nov. 3, 2020, 7:45 pm] “Have you seen what that guy is handing out?”

Phoebe Goldsteen nods to a long-haired young man handing out flyers near the concrete steps leading up to the Precinct 43 polling place at Garinger High School in east Charlotte. 

Goldsteen unfolds a flyer depicting presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Underneath, the candidates’ purported policy positions are listed side by side. Trump, who maintains a previously unknown Chinese bank account, is touted as being tough on China. The president’s plan to use combat troops to tamp down lawful demonstrations is euphemistically called “federal help to stop riots.”

“He’s been calling these non-partisan,” Goldsteen says of the pamphleteer and his leaflets.

Shortly after noon on Election Day, Goldsteen is seated at a table decorated with cut-outs of the heads of Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. His leash tethered to the table, Goldsteen’s poodle Wally finds a shady spot nearby. Goldsteen confides that Wally can break the ice with voters who come up to pet the friendly dog.

The 30-year-old volunteer for the North Carolina Democratic Party ask passers-by if they want a sample ballot indicating which candidates are Democrats. In the time Cardinal & Pine is at the polling place, no one turns her down.

Goldsteen’s political activism is spurred by values instilled in her by politically and socially active parents, she says. The current polarization between right and left has made her even more active.

“Donald Trump has gone against so much of what I stand for,” she says. “I feel it’s my social responsibility to get out there and make sure that people  … understand their rights when it comes to voting.”

Goldsteen says she voted early so she could volunteer to hand out blue ballots today. She feels it’s important to stress down-ballot races to prospective Democratic voters.

“People get excited and amped up about the presidential election but it’s just as important for us to vote on a local level because a lot of those state and local offices are what make and break our day-to-day life.”

Jonathan Smith stops at the table to pet Wally. Smith says he’s pretty much on a first name basis with all the people who work elections at this precinct.

I vote regularly in elections, every single one,” Smith, a veteran and a native Charlottean, says. “This is my civic responsibility. This is the most important way to get my voice heard.”

Contrary to accepted wisdom, Smith has cast his vote on Election Day to avoid long lines of voters during early voting. Garinger was one of several early voting sites in Charlotte, and Cardinal & Pine’s visit to the school on Oct. 15, the second early voting day in the city, supports Smith’s reasoning. In mid-October, a long line snaked into the parking lot. Today, single voters and pairs of voters approach the polling place with no wait.

Even if there had been a wait, it wouldn’t have dissuaded Marie Horton.

“I was willing to stand in line as long as I had to,” Horton says.

Horton wanted to vote early but she couldn’t get off work. So, she left the office early today to cast her vote.

Horton says she’s voted for change. “We need improvement,” she says. “We need better.”

Student Emily Biggins is also determined to cast her ballot, but she’s encountered obstacles.    

 Biggins says she brought her absentee ballot to Garinger a week and a half ago, but she forgot to have a witness sign it. She asked if someone could sign it for her, and was told that she could sign it myself.

“That sounded weird,” says Biggins, who declined to cast her ballot then.

“Now I’m on a goose chase to turn this in or go vote,” says Biggins holding her absentee ballot. She’s come out of the Precinct 43 polling place once again, this time with a referral that will allow her to vote in her precinct in Plaza Midwood, a nearby neighborhood.

“I don’t have to wait in line [there], which is great because I have a midterm in two hours.”

Biggins grew up in Spain and Germany, which has given her a unique perspective on American politics, she says.

“I’ve been able to see what works elsewhere, especially with protesting and police work. It’s just not working for us over here, so that’s why I’m out here today.”

Biggins favors a Biden/Harris win, but she hopes the election results are not disruptive. She cites reports that storefronts have been shuttered in Washington D.C. and other U.S. cities pending the outcome.

“I also hope that [the election’s outcome] doesn’t tear families apart like it has been,” Biggins says.

Like Biggins, Hyeonji Lee has grown up overseas. She moved to the U.S. from South Korea when she was 14. Today, the 27-year-old is volunteering for the NC Democratic party as a poll watcher.

Because South Korea doesn’t allow dual citizenship until a person attains the age of majority, Lee is a permanent resident in the U.S. and a green card holder.

“I’m not allowed to vote because I’m not a citizen,” Lee says. So, volunteering is her way of  contributing. “I just want to help out.”

Lee says she stepped up because she heard that the older demographic which usually volunteers to poll-watch had stayed home because of COVID-19.

Early next year, Lee’s parents, who still live in South Korea, plan to emigrate to America and become naturalized citizens. Lee also plans to become a citizen once her family joins her.

She hopes for a Biden/Harris win in her soon-to-be homeland.

“I hope for a smooth transition,” says Lee, who worries that Trump may try to derail the peaceful transfer of power.

 “I hope that all the votes will be counted as soon as possible,” Lee says.

After Delays, NC Board of Elections Extends Voting Hours at 4 Sites

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Kimberly Porter and Brian Porter, voters in Burlington. (Sarah Ovaska/Cardinal & Pine)

[Updated Nov. 3, 2020, 4 p.m.] The North Carolina Board of Elections voted to extend the hours at four voting sites that did not open on time this morning. The delays ranged from just a few minutes to 45, though it is unclear if any voters at any of the sites left this morning without being able to vote.

The votes fell along party lines, with the three Democrats voting to extend each site and the two Republicans voting No across the board.

A Board of Elections statute requires that any extensions are taken minute by minute and precinct by precinct, meaning that the extension for each precinct should match the time of the delay. Polls at all other sites close at 7:30 p.m.

The sites, addresses and new times from NCBOE:

“In Cabarrus County, voting will be extended by 17 minutes to 7:47 p.m. at the First Missionary Baptist Church location at 59 Chestnut Drive SW, in Concord, N.C.” The delay sprung from computer issues, officials said.
“In Guilford County, voting will be extended by 34 minutes to 8:04 p.m. at the Bluford Elementary School, located at 1901 Tuscaloosa St., Greensboro, N.C.” In this case, the chief judge for the site did not arrive until 6:25 a.m., five minutes before the site was scheduled to open.
“Voting will be extended 45 minutes to 8:15 p.m. at the Plainview Fire Station precinct, located at 5041 Plain View Hwy, Dunn, N.C. ” Here and in the other Sampson County site, below, there were problems with the printer.
“Also in Sampson County, voting will be extended 24 minutes to 7:54 p.m. at the Northeast Clinton (Sampson County Adult Daycare) precinct, located at 210 Fisher Drive, Clinton, N.C.”

Those who vote during the extended time will fill out provisional ballots, NCBOE officials said in a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon. The ballots will be counted with all other provisional ballots by noon on Thursday. The site at the Plainview Fire Station will, as of now, be the last site to close today, and county officials across the state will not begin to report their results until then. Voters who are in line by the new deadlines will be allowed to vote.

The buildup to Election Day came with fears that President Trump’s many calls to his supporters to go to polls to “watch very carefully,” could result in widespread voter suppression efforts. But so far, elections officials say, the disruptions have been few and minor.

In the former mill town of Burlington, voters waited at times for a half-hour to hour at the polling precinct at Elmira Recreation Center. The delays largely seemed to be in finding voters’ names and pulling their ballots.

“It’s going pretty good but we’re not getting them in as quick as we like,” said Carolyn Long, the chief precinct judge at the Elmira Center.

Sasha Scott, a teacher and first-time voter, waited in the line for close to an hour only to find out a mailer sent by a group to her house had directed her to the wrong place to vote.
She was frustrated, but was going to head to the correct site to cast a vote.

“I’’m a first time voter,” Scott said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Poll observers with Democracy NC reported the issue of long lines and relayed voter complaints to the county board of elections around noon, and the pace noticeably picked up after that.

Brian and Kimberly Porter, a Burlington couple who are working from home during COVID-19, came to vote during their lunch break. They found the process to be smooth, and were glad to cast their votes for Joe Biden.

The couple were aware of how Graham and Alamance sheriff’s deputies broke up a march to the polls on Saturday, deploying pepper spray on a multiracial crowd of several hundred that included children and elderly people. The couple said they intentionally came midday to avoid any issues.

“I was kind of hesitant and afraid of anything happening,” Kimberly Porter said. “I wanted to come out earlier.”

There were no lines at LeRoy Martin Middle School in Raleigh this morning, or in the afternoon. It was smooth sailing, volunteers for both Democrats and Republicans said, because some 80% of the precinct’s voters had already cast their ballots in both mail and early voting.

Sheri Portman, who has been volunteering at elections for the Republican Party for seven years, said she had never seen such an Early Voting rush.

“It’s been smooth [this morning],” she said, adding “people have already made up their minds.”

“There’s not a lot of folks left to vote,” she said.

In Eastern NC, Healthcare and Race Hot Topics at the Polls

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
A mural in downtown Goldsboro. (Photo by Billy Ball)

[Updated Nov. 3, 2020, 2 pm]: “Healthcare, healthcare, healthcare.”

Gertie Coley, a Wayne County native, told Cardinal & Pine at the Wayne County Public Library that she’d already voted, and was now volunteering to help at the polls through the evening hours.

She’s a people person. That’s one reason. But the other is the state of healthcare in North Carolina.

“I know a lot of people can’t afford their medicine,” she says.

Coronavirus, healthcare, and racial inequality were all recurring themes in the voters trickling into Wayne County precincts Tuesday morning, where traffic was slow but steady. Officials across the state were reporting slightly slower traffic in the morning hours—no surprise there—but an extraordinarily busy early voting season likely played a part.

In Wayne County, a rural eastern NC county that’s home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, as well as cities and towns like Goldsboro and Mount Olive, more than 46,000 had already voted before Election Day. That’s a staggering 61% of all voters.

Coley said lines were wrapped around the building at the Wayne County Public Library early voting site on many days.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Gertie Coley, a Wayne County native, says this election is all about healthcare. (Photo by Billy Ball)

Counties like Wayne were a focal point of early turnout efforts for top Democrats this year. Vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris held a rally in Goldsboro Sunday, one of the Biden/Harris campaign’s final engagements in the state in 2020. That’s because of relatively low turnout in past elections, particularly among low-income voters.

Goldsboro, the county seat of Wayne County, is home to about 34,000, and 52% of the population is Black. It’s also a bellwether for this part of the state, a cross-section of agricultural operations and manufacturing, with swine farms one of the fastest growing components of the economy. And poverty, like many concerns in eastern NC, is a real concern. More than a quarter of Goldsboro’s residents live below the poverty line.

Civil rights leader William Barber II is a bishop at a local Christian church. Barber was on hand at Harris’ rally Sunday, pointing out that a boost in voter participation among low-income voters in the state would help to shift the elections away from Republican candidates, who he’s been vocally critical of in the last decade.

For Yvonnia Moore, a poll volunteer who’s already cast her ballot in Wayne County, said many of the locals she’s talking to are focused more on kitchen-table issues such as healthcare, wages and benefits than they are the salacious details of the presidential election.

Moore said voters are eager for change.

“People are definitely about the pandemic,” she says. “About education. I want to live in a community with more equality.”

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Yvonnia Moore and Jazmyn Lee, volunteers at the polls in Goldsboro, said local voters are more interested in healthcare, wages and benefits this year than they are salacious presidential politics. (Photo by Billy Ball)

Moore said she’s active in this election because she wants to be heard. Three years ago, when she moved to Wayne County from Boston, she said she recalls being told by someone to stay quiet when men talk.

That’s the sort of thing that has Moore eager to push more diverse candidates in North Carolina.

“We’ve got a lot of nice guys sitting in office who aren’t doing anything for us,” she said.

Erika Washington of Wayne County, the mother of a 9-month-old and a 7-year-old, said the coronavirus is shaping her vote. “I’m really paying attention to the candidate who can get us out of it,” Washington said.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Wayne County’s Erika Washington, mother of a 9-month-old and a 7-year-old, says she’s voting for the candidate who makes her children feel safer and deals with coronavirus better. (Photo by Billy Ball)

Voting was relatively uneventful here on Election Day morning, although multiple poll watchers said numerous voters had been directed to other sites because they were in the wrong precinct. Under state law, voters are required to vote in their precinct on Election Day, although during the early voting period, they can vote at any site in the county. Voters are able to request a provisional ballot if they turn out in the wrong precinct, although most on Tuesday seemed to be heading off to their correct precinct.

Steve Cole, a volunteer at the polls, said the law was frustrating some. “I’ve heard people say ‘I’m going home to go to bed,'” Cole said.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Steve Cole, at the Goldsboro polls, said he’s concerned about voters being turned back on Election Day because they’re voting in the wrong precinct. State law allows for such voters to request a provisional ballot, but the precinct rule has confused and aggravated some, he says. (Photo by Billy Ball)

Jazmyn Lee, a 19-year-old from Goldsboro who goes to school at NC A&T, told Cardinal & Pine Tuesday that this was her first election she’s been able to vote in. Wearing a shirt for Democratic state Senate candidate Donna Lake, Lee said she’s been stunned by the vitriol in this year’s campaign, pointing directly to reports this weekend of law enforcement in Alamance County, NC, using pepper spray on a peaceful voter rally in Graham on the last day of early voting. Some have compared law enforcement’s actions to voter suppression.

“I didn’t know it was going to be like this,” says Lee. “As I get older, it seems like the candidates get more unprofessional.”

Stephanie Simmons, another Wayne County native, said she votes in this election, but this year she was coming out to vote because she wanted to support candidates who were “fair to all people.”

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Stephanie Simmons, of Wayne County, says she’s voting for leaders who are “fair to all people.” (Photo by Billy Ball)

Bill Rowl, a Wayne County native who talked to Cardinal & Pine while strolling through Goldsboro’s downtown Tuesday morning, also said he votes in every election, but this year seemed different.

“Something’s gotta change,” said Rowl. “We can see it every day.”

Look for more updates at the polls throughout the day at Cardinal & Pine.

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Goldsboro in Wayne County, NC, is home to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. (Photo by Billy Ball)
Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
The Paramount Theatre in downtown Goldsboro. (Photo by Billy Ball)

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Suit Against Alamance County Police Who Deployed Pepper-Spray at Rally

[Updated Nov. 3, 2020, 12:28 p.m.] One of the nation’s leading civil rights legal firms has joined the fight to defend voters in North Carolina’s Alamance County who were pepper-sprayed by law enforcement this weekend at a rally to get out the vote.

The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund filed a suit in federal court last night against the city of Graham Police Department, Graham Police Chief Kristi Cole, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson and several unnamed police officers. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the attendees who were pepper sprayed, many of whom were people of color, and who were unable to get to the early voting site to cast their ballots that day. The rally was intended to include a march from a Confederate statue in downtown Graham to an early voting site.

Children and elderly people were among those in the crowd sprayed by police, with many marchers saying they vomited from the exposure to the pepper spray. Officers dispersed the spray less than a minute after the group had finished kneeling to recognize the death of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man killed by police earlier this year.

READ MORE: Police Pepper Spray Crowd with Children, Elderly Attending NC Voter Turnout Rally

Joining the NAACP LDF in filing the suit was Geraldine Sumter, a Charlotte-based civil rights attorney with the law firm Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter, which was founded by Julius Chambers, a giant in North Carolina’s civil rights world.

“Through their conduct, Defendants prevented North Carolinians from peacefully protesting and casting their vote free from intimidation, threats, harassments, and coercion,” the federal complaint filed in court reads. “Defendants’ conduct occurred on the last day of early voting in North Carolina and three days before the end of the 2020 general election. That Defendants would deploy weapons of war to dissuade voters so close to Election Day inspires little confidence that voters will be safe to cast their ballots.”

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare the actions of the Graham police and Alamance sheriff’s deputies illegal and acts of voter suppression, as well as award damages for any marchers injured at the march.

In a press conference Sunday, a Graham police spokesman defended his agency’s actions, saying that traffic had backed up and officers needed to clear the streets where protesters had kneeled. Police said they had given protesters warnings, but many marchers have said that they couldn’t hear any police commands before the pepper spray was deployed.

To make their claims, the organization looked back to what’s known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, a law passed in 1871 intended to protect people from the illegal voter suppression seen in the years following the Civil War.

“Voter intimidation is voter suppression,” said Leah Aden, LDF’s Deputy Director of Litigation, according to a statement. “The right to vote free from violence or intimidation of any kind is one of the most sacred guarantees of a constitutional democracy. No one should be pepper sprayed or met with any type of police violence on their way to vote.”

The polls are open in Alamance County today, as they are across the state. The initial organizer of the Saturday march Rev. Greg Drumwright, is holding another march at 3 p.m. today.

Early Vote Tally Breaks Records, with Polls Opening at 6:30 a.m. Election Day

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Voters stand in line waiting to cast ballots in the 2020 election at a Charlotte early voting site. (Photo for Cardinal & Pine by Alvin Jacobs Jr.)

[Updated Nov. 2, 2020, 4:45 p.m.] North Carolina, most of you have already had your say in the future of this country.

Four more years of a Trump Administration or four years with Joe Biden in the Oval Office, it all comes down to what American voters have to say.

As of midday Monday, the NC Board of Elections reported more than 4.5 million ballots cast in the 2020 election are in.

That turnout is seriously something. It amounts to 96% of the total votes we had in the 2016 election.

And it means 62% of overall registered voters have voted, setting the stage for what could be record breaking voter turnout. (For context, in 2016, 69% of registered voters cast ballots..)  

For the rest of you who haven’t voted, tomorrow is the day to get it done. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and will stay open until 7:30 p.m., though as long as you are in line by the time the polls close you will be able to vote. Look up your polling place here.

Don’t forget the down-ballot races, including the down-to-the-wire US Senate battle between Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham. The victor could determine the partisan balance, and direction, of the US Senate. Cardinal & Pine has reported extensively on that race, and others, which you can read about here.  

If you’re worried about catching COVID-19 if you go to the polls tomorrow, you’ve got options. Curbside voting is at every single polling place in the state, and is open to those who can’t physically go into a polling place because of age or disability, or if they are at high risk of complications from COVID or have symptoms.  

Just get there and have your say. No excuses.

Nearly Six in 10 NC Registered Voters Have Voted. Have You?

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Record numbers of early voters are showing up in polling sites like this one at Brown Recreation Center in Greensboro (Photo by Sarah Ovaska.)

[Updated Oct. 30, 5:30 pm.] North Carolina is showing up at the polls.

Voter turnout is at record levels for this point in the election, with 58% of the state’s 7.3 million registered voters having already cast ballots either through the mail or at early voting sites, according to data released Friday afternoon by the state Board of Elections.

The turnout surpasses prior elections at this stage, and is a reflection of the challenges 2020 has dealt the nation with COVID-19 upending how people generally live (and vote).

North Carolina’s overall turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 69%, when voters narrowly chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.  In 2008, 70% of registered voters participated, then a record for the state, when Barack Obama carried North Carolina, and the nation.

Just how many North Carolinians will come to the polls, and who they will vote for, this year is a difficult question to answer, given the state is both a battleground politically, and in the fight against COVID-19. But turnout this year is expected to be high overall, and surpass prior records.

There’s still time to get your vote counted. Early voting, where people can also register to vote, ends on Saturday.

After that, voters can either hand in an already-requested absentee ballot at their local election board through Election Day, Nov. 3, or show up at their voting precinct.

Carrboro to SBOE: We’re Keeping Our BLM Flags Up

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Carrboro leaders are rebuffing a directive from state officials to remove a ‘Black Lives Matter’ flag outside their town hall, which is serving as an early voting site in Orange County. (Photo by Sarah Ovaska)

[updated Oct. 30, 2020 at 10 am]

Leaders of a North Carolina town say they’ll keep flying “Black Lives Matter” flags outside its town hall, despite a request from the State Board of Elections to take them flags down.

Carrboro, the Orange County town of 21,000 known for taking stances on social justice issues, was asked in an Oct. 28 letter from the State Board of Election executive director Karen Brinson Bell to take down the flags after multiple voters complained about them flags to the elections board. The town hall is being used as an early voting site.

“While these flags may be a supported symbol of the Town of Carrboro, the one-stop early voting site is open to any Orange County voter and therefore the site must provide the opportunity for all voters to exercise their right to vote without intimidation or hindrance,” Bell wrote in her letter, according to the Washington Post.

But Carrboro town leaders rebuffed the request Thursday, and plan on keeping the BLM flags up.

“After consulting with the town attorney, the Mayor and Town Council have chosen to leave the flags in place,” wrote Catherine Lazorko, communications manager for the town, in a statement.

There are two days of early voting remaining, Friday and Saturday. Then voters can cast their ballots at their precincts Nov. 3 or return their completed already-requested absentee ballots to their local board of elections.

Final Polling Shows a Slim Biden Lead in NC. Does That Mean Anything?

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak during a campaign event at Riverside High School in Durham, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

[updated Oct. 29, 2020, 4 pm]

Five days before Election Day, Joe Biden holds “a small but durable lead” over President Donald Trump in North Carolina, a New York Times/Siena College poll released on Thursday shows. The poll, the group’s last of the election for NC, puts Biden up by three percentage points, 48 to 45, in a state that could decide the whole deal.

The poll also shows Democrat Cal Cunningham with a slim lead over US Sen. Thom Tillis. A win here for Democrats gives the party at shot of retaking control of the Senate.

But, in the final days before the 2016 election, the polls also showed Trump down in key swing states he would ultimately win.

We know our votes matter, but do polls?

Several publications and studies in the last week have looked at just how worried voters should be that current polls are as wrong now as they were at this stage in 2016.

There seems to be growing consensus, that really, this time is different.

Derek Thompson, a writer at Atlantic Monthly, gives several reasons why it seems unlikely that 2020 polls will be wildly off base.

Pollsters adjusted their methods in the Great Lake states like Michigan and Wisconsin where Trump won and the polls were farthest off-course.
Undecideds broke mostly for Trump in 2016, but there are far fewer of those voters this time around. In fact, most registered voters have already voted.
There have been no October surprises. (So far.)
And there was no pandemic in 2020.

And in an interview with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill publication The Well, Joseph Cabosky, an assistant professor at the university’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, said that the reports of a widespread failure of 2016 polls were overblown to begin with.

“I think it’s a bit of an exaggerated myth that 2016 was just terrible polling,” he said. “Some of the most accurate polls were the national polls. These mostly showed Clinton up by three, three-and-a-half points. She ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1 points, which was well within what we call the margin of error.”

The collapse, he said, was centered in one region, the Northeast and north central areas of the United States.

“The one region of the country which just completely changed the election was everything from Pennsylvania to Minnesota. Minnesota stayed blue, but Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio were several points redder than expected, sometimes up to eight to nine points more than some polls.”

Cabosky agreed with Thompson that pollsters had made adjustments in their polling models.

“During every cycle we have to make some adjustments, especially because the way we communicate with people has been changing so quickly from landlines to text,” he said.

“I think polling continues to be pretty good,” he added.

“Out of 20 states, statistically, there’s always one state that’s just probably going to be a little bit off,” he said,“but, there’s nothing glaring about the 2020 election that I’m super worried about.”

Still, any campaign counting on complacency is doomed to fail, and the Biden campaign has been warning against relying on the polls as often as the Trump campaign, often without evidence, says they are seeing polling that puts him in the lead.

Either way, all sides agree: Vote, because the final tally of ballots is the only poll that counts.

Supreme Court lets absentee ballot deadlines stand

[Updated Oct. 29, 2020, 1 p.m.] The US Supreme Court weighed in Wednesday night on a contentious partisan issue in North Carolina about how to deal with late arriving  absentee ballots.

The court ruled that a decision by the State Board of Elections to count absentee ballots through Nov. 12, beyond a normal three-day window, could stand.

The US Supreme Court’s decision was a big setback for Republicans in the state who hoped to limit the window of time that ballots could come in and be counted.

What does this Supreme Court decision mean for you, the voter? Honestly, nothing changed. 

If you’re planning on voting absentee, you will need to still have your ballot postmarked by the end of Election Day, Nov. 3.

If you do drop it in the mail and it gets to your county board of elections through the mail by Nov. 12, it will be counted in the official election tally.

However, the US Postal Service recommended you mail your ballot by Oct. 27 to guarantee it gets there, a date which has now passed. So, what to do?

You’ve got a few options. You can drop off your completed absentee ballot at your county board of elections office (look that up here)  or you can drop it off at an early vote location in your county through Saturday. Make sure you have a witness sign the ballot in the designated spot. A ballot without a witness signature will not be counted. 

You can also just vote the old-fashioned way, in-person. Early voting continues through Saturday, Oct. 31, and you can also register to vote at the same time. (You will not be able to register on Election Day, Nov. 3, so that window is almost closed.)

Both of in-person options allow for curbside voting, at every single voting location, for those who find it difficult to go into a polling place because of age or disability. This year, the State Board of Elections extended curbside voting to those at high risk of serious complications if they were to contract COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing, fever or loss of smell. (Please, please vote curbside if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with  COVID-19 ).

The clock is ticking for the time to vote, something more than half of North Carolina’s registered voters have already done. So, figure out your plan, and get out there and vote.

Congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn criticized for race-baiting website

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Madison Cawthorn, a western NC candidate for Congress. (Image via Cawthorn’s campaign)

[updated Oct. 23, 2020] North Carolina Congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn is in the headlines again, and not because of any robust debate of the issues.

Cawthorn is apologizing after political news site The Bulwark reported Thursday that Cawthorn’s campaign had created a race-baiting website attacking his opponent for associating with a journalist who wants to “ruin white males.”

The journalist in question is former Miami Herald Pulitzer-winner Tom Fiedler. Cawthorn’s website claimed that his opponent in the 2020 election, Democrat Moe Davis, is associating with Fiedler, who writes for the nonprofit news outlet AVL Watchdog. Fiedler is being criticized, bizarrely, because he reportedly volunteered for former presidential candidate Cory Booker, citing a desire to support a more diverse field of candidates in American politics.

“He quit his academia in Boston to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office,” the screen shot initially said of Fiedler, before Cawthorn’s campaign changed it.

That’s hard to unpack. So we’ll let Cawthorn attempt to do so.

Waynesville newspaper The Mountaineer reported Friday on Cawthorn’s apology. 

“It was a major syntax error that was not clear that we were quoting him,” Cawthorn reportedly told The Mountaineer. “Without context, that looks awful. At the end of the day, the buck stops with me. I should have read deeper into the moetaxes.com website. At the end of the day, someone on my staff, not exactly sure who, made a mistake. I did approve the … website. I wish I had gone back and really read that and said, ‘Hey this could be ripped out of context.’”

Cawthorn is a western NC Republican who became nationally known in the spring after he defeated President Trump’s candidate in the GOP primary for the US House of Representatives District 11. 

Cawthorn, who spoke at Trump’s Republican National Convention in August, has been accused of sexual assault, as well as sexually aggressive behavior by multiple women, claims Cawthorn has denied. He also drew scrutiny over a series of bizarre social media posts from 2017 that referred to a visit to Adolf Hitler’s vacation home as a “bucket list” item.   

North Carolina Getting Its Vote on

[Updated Oct. 20, 2020] Good job filling out those ballots, fellow North Carolinians.  

Nearly 2 million people have already cast their ballots in the state just a week into the 17-day early voting season, according to numbers released Tuesday by the State Board of Elections.  

That means one out of every four registered voters has already voted by mail or at early voting sites with two weeks to go until Election Day on Nov. 3.

That shatters the turnout in 2016 (when, of course, there wasn’t a pandemic going on in the background.)

Still need to cast your ballot? It’s pretty easy to do right now, you still have time to request an absentee ballot by mail from your county elections board. Or you can look up early voting sites as well, and you can both register to vote and vote.

Curbside voting is an option for those unable to physically head into a polling place to cast, whether because of disability or age or if someone is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or is at high-risk of serious complications if they contract COVID-19.

Then, there’s Nov. 3, Election Day, where you can head down to your polling place and cast your ballot for your preferred candidates.

Biden in NC: ‘Americans Don’t Panic. Donald Trump Panics.’

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

[updated Oct. 19, 2020] Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made his latest pitch to North Carolina voters Sunday, shredding President Donald Trump over his handling of the novel coronavirus.

“The president has known how bad this virus would be since January and he hid it from you,” Biden told a crowd of socially distanced supporters outside Durham’s Riverside High School, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “His excuse is that he didn’t want Americans to panic. Americans don’t panic. Donald Trump panics.”

Although he has often touted his January call to restrict travel to China, misrepresenting it as a “ban,” the president has been roundly criticized for his delayed response to the virus and inconsistent messaging about COVID safety.

As multiple outlets noted Sunday, Biden’s audience in Durham was asked to remain in their cars, noting their support for the candidate’s comments by honking their car horns.

Biden told his audience Sunday that he would continue to build on the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s benchmark health care law, and back Medicaid expansion in NC, a mostly federally-funded component of the ACA that would extend health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians if cleared by state lawmakers. Many consider the ACA, the signature achievement of former President Barack Obama, to be facing its toughest test when the US Supreme Court hears a GOP challenge to the law just days after the election.

If the conservative-leaning court overturns the law, as President Trump has called for, it could revoke health insurance for hundreds of thousands in NC and impact care for millions with pre-existing medical conditions.

“The very soul of our nation is at stake,” Biden reportedly said. “It’s go time. This is the most important election of our lifetime.”

The former vice president and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have been running a more socially distanced campaign than the president. But they have been increasing their activity in NC in recent weeks, with polls indicating a tight race learning slightly toward Biden in the typically Republican-leaning state.

Biden and Harris have been focusing on health care particularly in NC, one of 12 states remaining that still blocks Medicaid expansion.

An election like no other

Election HQ: Cardinal & Pine’s Live Blog on NC’s 2020 Election
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham speaks to supporters in March 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

[updated Oct. 16, 2020] Cardinal & Pine reporters have an extensive amount of experience covering North Carolina politics. So take it from us when we say: We have never seen an election like 2020.

Put aside the presidential race for a moment and the stark contrast between Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump. The race for power in North Carolina has come to a head. 

For a decade, the state has been under the thumb of Republican leadership. Historically speaking though, GOP dominance in North Carolina is still just a footnote. When the party seized both chambers of the traditionally moderate state legislature in 2010, it was the first time the Republican Party held both in a century. And with Gov. Pat McCrory’s election in 2012, the Republicans held virtually unchecked power, ushering in an era of broad tax cuts, reduced public education funding, and a highly polarizing social conservative agenda.

In 2020, Democrats have a chance to retake control in both the state House and Senate. There are crucial races across the state that will determine control of the chambers, many of which were featured in our “Cardinal Issues” series.

But that’s not all at stake. Gov. Roy Cooper faces a stiff challenge from GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. US Sen. Thom Tillis is squaring off with Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in a winding race that might determine the balance of of power in D.C. Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley faces Republican political newcomer Mark Robinson in the race to fill Forest’s seat. And no matter what, the state will have a new Superintendent of Public Instruction, with Democrat Jen Mangrum facing Republican Catherine Truitt.

And then there’s Trump and Biden. 

This blog, which we will update as we approach the election, on Election Day, and in the days that follows, will offer breaking news and analysis with up-to-the-minute info about the election results and voting. Check back for updates.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

  • Sarah Ovaska
  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

  • Max Millington
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