‘Beautiful to see it happen’: Mecklenburg County counts absentee ballots

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina is one of six states where a winner hasn’t been declared in the presidential race. The state has rules in place when it comes to counting the votes as ballots come in over the next week.

Fewer than 3,000 ballots were counted Friday night in Mecklenburg County, which is much less than the 5,000 to 6,000 officials estimated.

State and local election officials told Channel 9 the meeting and others like it across the state were open to the public, including political party officials who want to observe the process. They said they want to be transparent and protect the integrity of each vote.

“It’s five board members looking at envelopes,” said Mecklenburg County’s Board of Elections Director, Michael Dickerson. "We will run them through the tabulator and then we’ll give them the results of what we ran through the tabulator.”

Election officials said usually very few people show up to observe those ballot counting meetings, but that could change this year due to growing interest in making sure this election is fair.

[Why North Carolina’s election results won’t be final for another week]

A small crowd of voters gathered at the board of elections.

Anchor Genevieve Curtis spoke to citizens, who came to observe, as votes were counted.

Larry Shaheen has watched the slow, tedious process before.

“A lot of people might think this is boring, but this is how democracy works,” Shaheen said. “You’ve got a lot of bipartisan people sitting around making sure the rules are followed. I gotta tell you, it’s beautiful to see it happen.”

Bessie Rhoades was a first-time observer and voted for President Donald Trump, who has a 76,000-vote lead in the state.

She said it was important for her to participate in the process to watch votes get confirmed.

“A lot of the absentee ballots, at this point, are going to be military ballots, which will be predominately Trump ballots,” Rhoades said. “So, I have to make sure that they are all counted.”

NCSBE released the following information Friday:

Nine county boards of elections are meeting Friday to consider a total of at least 4,300 additional absentee by-mail ballots and approved ballots will be added to the unofficial results on the State Board of Elections website after the meetings.

CLICK here for unofficial results.

As of Friday morning, about 99,000 voters who requested an absentee by-mail ballot had not yet returned an accepted ballot or voted in person during the early voting period. The number of these ballots ultimately returned will be less than 99,000, because some voters cast their ballot in person on Election Day and others likely did not vote at all.

The State Board will not know how many voters with outstanding absentee ballots voted on Election Day until the county boards of elections complete their regular post-election tasks during the canvass period.

Additionally, about 31,900 eligible ballots arrived at county boards of elections over the past few days. Those envelopes have been scanned in but have not yet been officially approved by the county board or added to the unofficial results.

Those numbers are approximations based on the best available data through the state’s election information management system

Also, the 40,766 provisional ballots voted statewide will be researched to determine whether the voter was eligible, and the approved ballots will be reported on the Election Night Results website on November 12 and 13. In 2016, about 44 percent of provisional ballots cast statewide were counted.

County boards will complete their processes and canvass the election on November 13. The State Board will meet on November 24 to complete its canvass.

County boards of elections cannot meet sooner to count additional ballots because state law requires them to schedule post-election absentee board meetings at least two weeks before Election Day. The meeting schedule must be published once a week for two weeks in a newspaper. The law does not permit a county board to modify the meeting schedule after the election.

“Our county boards of elections are working extremely hard to count all ballots, conduct required audits and complete all other post-election tasks,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections. “This is the process we always go through and that we must go through under state law.”

The following nine counties have meetings scheduled on Friday. The number of absentee ballots that may be counted is also included. Additional ballots may be considered Friday if they arrive at the county board office before Friday’s meeting. Most counties expect additional ballots to arrive from the U.S. Postal Service Friday.

  • Anson County: 11 a.m., County Board of Elections office, 402 Morven Road, Wadesboro Ballots: 11
  • Cabarrus: 5 p.m., County Board of Elections office, 369 Church St. N, Concord Ballots: 400
  • Edgecombe: 5 p.m., County Board of Elections office, 201 St. Andrew St., Room 434, Tarboro Ballots: 88
  • Graham: 5 p.m., Graham County Courthouse, 12 N. Main St. Robbinsville Ballots: 11
  • Hoke: 5 p.m., Hoke County Commissioners Room 227, 227 N. Main St., Raeford Ballots: 192
  • Mecklenburg: 5 p.m., County Board of Elections office, 741 Kenilworth Ave., Suite 202, Charlotte Ballots: 3,000-5,000
  • Perquimans: Noon, County Board of Elections office, 601A S. Edenton Road St., Hertford Ballots: 5
  • Robeson: 6 p.m., County Board of Elections office, 800 N. Walnut St., Lumberton Ballots: 175
  • Sampson: 10 a.m., County Board of Elections office, 120 County Complex Road, Suite 10, Clinton Ballots: 500


A ballot is considered provisional if there are questions about whether the voter is eligible to vote. In 2016, a little less than half of the provisional ballots were eligible. This process happens every year. It is getting extra attention this year because the results are so close.