Explainer: What provisional ballots mean for the NC governor's race

Explainer: What provisional ballots mean for the NC governor's race

RALEIGH, N.C. — The results so far in the North Carolina governor’s race have left voters with more questions than answers.

Gov. Pat McCrory took the stage late Tuesday night and told supporters that they won’t know until at least Nov. 18 who won the race. But later in the night, attorney general Roy Cooper went on stage and declared victory in the race.

Content Continues Below

McCrory said the race could come down to provisional ballots.

Provisional votes are not included in election night totals. Those ballots are cast by voters who didn’t have registrations on file, didn’t report that they had moved, tried to vote in the wrong precinct or voted during extended hours.

The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections told Channel 9 that they have just under 3,700 provisional ballots. They will research next week and hold a recount on Nov. 18. They will also count about 2,000 absentee ballots on Nov. 15.

The North Carolina Board of Elections gave Channel 9 a breakdown of how the provisional ballots are counted:

  1. Almost immediately, each county Board of Elections must check all provisional ballots.
  2. The ballots that officials deem eligible will then be added to the final election results. Officials said by the time they sort through the ballots, only about 50 to 60 percent may get counted.
  3. Ten days after the election, which is Nov. 18, each county has to "canvass" or certify its total election results.
  4. Once each county certifies its results, they are sent to the North Carolina Board of Elections.
  5. Final election results will be available after that.

If the final vote tally shows fewer than 10,000 votes separating the two candidates, the runner-up can demand a recount.

The request must be done the following week, which would be the week of Nov. 21.

State Board of Elections released the following post-election process:

  1. Absentee ballots: Mail-in absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Nov. 14.  Overseas and military absentee ballots are accepted through Nov. 17.
  2. Sample Audit: Every county conducts a sample hand-to-eye count of ballots in randomly selected precincts and one-stop locations to confirm results tabulated by machine. Counties must conduct their hand-to-eye counts in public.
  3. Provisional ballot meetings: Each county board of elections will meet before certifying the election to make decisions on provisional applications submitted by voters during early voting and on Election Day.  If the board determines that the voter is eligible, the provisional ballot is counted. Provisional ballots are cast when an individual's registration information does not appear in the poll books or there are other questions about that person's eligibility to vote.
  4. County canvass: County boards of elections will certify results at public meetings held at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18.
  5. Recounts: For statewide contests this year, the vote difference must be 10,000 votes or less for a candidate to demand a recount after the county canvass. The demand for a recount must be in writing and received by the State Board of Elections no later than noon Tuesday, Nov. 22. If a recount is demanded, the State Board of Elections Office would issue a schedule, and the counties would conduct recounts individually during open meetings. For non-statewide contests, the difference between the candidates must be within 1 percent of the total votes cast in the ballot item.
  6. State canvass: The State Board of Elections will certify statewide results for all federal, statewide, multi-district and judicial contests at a public meeting held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29.  Results in each contest are not considered official until that date.

Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com: