Hundreds of marchers moved through Durham the afternoon after Election Day, calling for state officials to "count every vote." (Photo by Billy Ball) "Count Every Vote" NC
Hundreds of marchers moved through Durham the afternoon after Election Day, calling for state officials to "count every vote." (Photo by Billy Ball)

Hundreds of marchers moved through downtown Durham Wednesday less than 24 hours after polls closed in NC, chanting, “Count every vote.”

One of Ricky Rodriguez’ first memories is of 2000, when the presidential election came to a standstill in his home in Florida.

Separated by hundreds of votes out of millions cast, in a state with numerous reports of voter suppression against Black Floridians, the state recounted until the US Supreme Court ordered it to stop, an outcome that still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Democrats and progressives.

All the results, as they come in. Cardinal & Pine’s live election blog.

“Here we are again,” said Rodriguez, standing in downtown Durham’s CCB Plaza Wednesday, less than 24 hours after polls closed in NC. He was surrounded by hundreds demanding that North Carolina election officials and other uncalled states across the country count every vote.

“We’re here to protect every vote because every vote is a dream,” said Rodriguez. “And there are dreams all across this country.”

The backdrop could not be more dramatic. Following one of the most bitterly divisive campaigns in modern history, North Carolina is one of several states in which most reputable media outlets have not declared winners in key races. 

In North Carolina, it’s unclear who won the presidential and US Senate races, although it’s likely the GOP candidates, President Donald Trump and Sen. Thom Tillis, will win given their existing leads in the unofficial results released Tuesday. 

But in other crucial states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, battleground states called in the last hours by multiple outlets, Trump is now expected to mount a legal case against the results or demand that states stop counting still outstanding ballots. In NC, that includes an estimated 117,000 absentee ballots, as well as an unknown number of election day provisional ballots, which have the potential to change the results in some races, particularly in a handful of close judicial races.

‘Count Every Vote’ NC
Hundreds of marchers moved through downtown Durham, chanting and singing, demanding state officials count every ballot in the 2020 election. (Photo by Cardinal & Pine)

Organizers of the rally, which included progressive advocacy organizations, members of the state’s Black Lives Matter movement, and labor rights groups said counting all ballots is crucial to democracy. 

They rallied in the center of downtown Durham, one of NC’s most progressive-leaning cities, before marching to the county’s Board of Elections office to chant words of support for poll officials. 

“No one should be afraid of more people getting to vote,” said Rabbi Salem Pearce, executive director of Carolina Jews for Justice, a progressive, faith-based organization that helped to organize Wednesday.

Pearce said NC should act to make voting easier in its counties, extending early voting hours and clearing automatic voter registration. Republicans in the state have been opposed to such measures, at least partially because they claim it could increase the frequency of voter fraud, an extraordinarily rare phenomenon. Democrats suspect the opposition is in reality a fear that greater access would mean fewer votes for GOP causes.

Pearce said she wanted to fight the president’s attempts to stifle more ballot-counting, noting the state had achieved historic turnout this year just shy of 75%. “We want to honor that work,” she said. 

‘Count Every Vote’ NC
Hundreds of marchers moved through downtown Durham, NC after Election Day demanding state officials count every vote. (Photo by Billy Ball)

What’s at Stake?

In North Carolina, the margins are slim enough that the outstanding ballots could change things. Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden and Trump are separated by just 76,737 votes, according to Reuters, in a state where more than 5.4 million ballots were turned in. Tillis and Cunningham are just 96,689 votes apart. 

Several crucial judicial races, including the race for state Supreme Court chief justice, are even closer. Republican Paul Newby and Democrat Cheri Beasley are separated by 3,742 ballots to be exact.

Democrats have urged a methodical approach to the count. 

Sara Fearrington, a Waffle House server who’s helped to lead the labor rights group NC Raise Up/Fight for $15 and a Union, said this was her first time voting in a presidential election. She started a passionate chant of “count every vote” with rally goers. 

“The fact that it is taking time means it is working,” Fearrington said. 

Regardless of the outcome in NC and beyond, Hashim Benford, a Durham resident who participated in Wednesday’s march, said he’s focused on a long-term movement for affordable housing, education, and better wages. But first, he said, it starts with just making sure the election results are counted fairly and accurately.

“A healthy democracy is necessary for these things,” he said.