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Follow the latest news and information about voting and the 2020 election, including essential information about how to vote during a pandemic and more.

On To Curing And Canvassing: When The Polls Closed Tuesday Night, The Elections Were Far From Over

2020 Election Day Ballots Delivered
Michael Falero
Ballots are delivered to Mecklenburg County's Board of Elections after polls closed on Tuesday night.

This article is made possible through a partnership between WFAE and Votebeat, a nonpartisan reporting project covering local election integrity and voting access. This article is available for reprint under the terms of our republishing policy.

Elections workers in North Carolina will continue counting votes through next week as mail-in ballots are received and they review provisional ballots.

“Everybody thinks because media outlets are calling a state for a certain candidate that all the voting stops and that’s just not the case,” said Gaston County Director of Elections Adam Ragan. “Everything that’s going on is just the normal part of the process. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary.

Dan Circosta, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, said North Carolina “conducted a record-breaking election” with 74% of registered voters casting ballots.

Now, people interested in the final results are hearing words such as "curing" and "canvassing."

In North Carolina, each county elections board will meet on Nov. 13 — the day after the deadline to receive mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day — to “canvass” their results, which is the process required to certify the results.

Ragan says before results are finalized, the 10-day period between the elections and canvass is when election workers make sure all legal ballots are counted.

Absentee mail-in ballots can be accepted until Nov. 12 as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3. The State Board of Elections reports that there are 116,200 outstanding mail-in ballots. It’s not likely there are this many votes that will be counted, however. For example, some voters likely voted on Election Day rather than mail their ballot, or might not have voted at all.

Mecklenburg County Board of elections director Michael Dickerson told WFAE’s Steve Harrison that his office has received about 5,000 mail ballots since Election Day that still need to be counted.

His board will meet Friday evening to count those and other ballots received since Election Day.

Ragan says when those ballots come in, workers first check to make sure they were postmarked by Election Day. Then, they look to see if the required information is on the envelope.

This is where “curing” comes in.

The voter must sign the back of the return envelope, and the witness has to print his/her name, full address, and sign the envelope. If a voter needed assistance completing the ballot, the person who provided the assistance must print his/her name, full address, and sign the envelope.

The ballot needs to be cured if the return envelope doesn’t meet any of these requirements.

Elections staff sends a cure certificate to the voter who has to sign the certificate, and that cures the ballot. Voters have to return the cured certificate by Nov. 12.

Many county boards of elections scheduled a pre-canvass meeting for Nov. 12 to open the absentee mail-in envelopes received since Elections Day.

Board members also have to address provisional ballots. The State Board of Elections reported Thursday that nearly 41,000 provisional ballots were cast on Election Day. These are ballots that precinct workers gave to voters whose names or addresses didn’t match what’s listed in poll books.

Provisional ballots were set aside, and not counted. Elections workers are now researching if those voters were eligible to vote.

During the pre-canvass meeting, board members will approve or disapprove the provisional ballots. Dickerson said 40-50% of provisional ballots in Mecklenburg County typically are accepted; in 2016, about 21,000 of 61,000 provisional ballots in North Carolina were counted.

Counties also have to perform sample “hand-to-eye” counts of results from precincts which were randomly selected by the State Board of Elections. Ragan says the audit is to make sure that the total on the machine matches the total that elections workers get after hand-counting the paper ballots.

In Gaston County, the precincts that will be audited are Precinct 29 in New Hope, which has 480 votes; and Precinct 34 in Landers Chapel with 346, Ragan said.

“Nothing nefarious is going on,” Ragan said. “This is just part of our post election audit reconciliation process.”

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