§ 163-182.5. Canvassing votes.
Overview of Statute
Section stipulates the canvassing procedure governing both the county board and the State Board of Elections.
(a) The Canvass.–As used in this Article, the term “canvass” means the entire process of determining that the votes have been counted and tabulated correctly, culminating in the authentication of the official election results. The board of elections conducting a canvass has authority to send for papers and persons and to examine them and pass upon the legality of disputed ballots.
(b) Canvassing by County Board of Elections.–The county board of elections shall meet at 11:00 A.M. on the tenth day after every election to complete the canvass of votes cast and to authenticate the count in every ballot item in the county by determining that the votes have been counted and tabulated correctly. If, despite due diligence by election officials, the initial counting of all the votes has not been completed by that time, the county board may hold the canvass meeting a reasonable time thereafter. The canvass meeting shall be at the county board of elections office, unless the county board, by unanimous vote of all its members, designates another site within the county. The county board shall examine the returns from precincts, from absentee official ballots, from the sample hand-to-eye paper ballot counts, and from provisional official ballots and shall conduct the canvass.
(c) Canvassing by State Board of Elections.–After each general election, the State Board of Elections shall meet at 11:00 A.M. on the Tuesday three weeks after election day to complete the canvass of votes cast in all ballot items within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Elections and to authenticate the count in every ballot item in the county by determining that the votes have been counted and tabulated correctly. After each primary, the State Board shall fix the date of its canvass meeting. If, by the time of its scheduled canvass meeting, the State Board has not received the county canvasses, the State Board may adjourn for not more than 10 days to secure the missing abstracts. In obtaining them, the State Board is authorized to secure the originals or copies from the appropriate clerks of superior court or county boards of elections, at the expense of the counties.
(2001-398, s. 3; 2003-278, s. 10(a); 2005-323, s. 5(c); 2005-428, s. 11(a); 2016-109, s. 1; 2017-6, s. 3; 2018-146, s. 3.1(a), (b).)
- Canvassing Procedure
1. Definition for Ballot item
“Ballot item” means a single item on a ballot in which the voters are to choose between or among the candidates or proposals listed.
2. Definition for Official ballot
“Official ballot” means a ballot that has been certified by the State Board of Elections and produced by or with the approval of the county board of elections. The term does not include a sample ballot or a specimen ballot.
3. Definition for Provisional official ballot
“Provisional official ballot” means an official ballot that is voted and then placed in an envelope that contains an affidavit signed by the voter certifying identity and eligibility to vote. Except for its envelope, a provisional official ballot shall not be marked to make it identifiable to the voter.
4. Definition for day
The term “day” means calendar day.
5. Definition for board
The term “board” means the State Board with respect to all candidates for State, legislative, and judicial offices and the county board of elections with respect to all candidates for county and municipal offices. The term means the State Board with respect to all statewide referenda and the county board of elections conducting all local referenda.
6. Definition for Board
Board. – Any State board, commission, council, committee, task force,
authority, or similar public body, however denominated, created by statute or
executive order, as determined and designated by the State Board, except for
those public bodies that have only advisory authority.
7. Definition for State
“State” means a state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
8. Definition for person
The term “person” means any business entity, corporation, insurance company, labor union, or professional association.
9. Definition for Ballot
(Effective until January 1, 2018 or September 1, 2019 – see note) “Ballot” means an instrument on which a voter indicates that voter’s choice for a ballot item so that it may be recorded as a vote for or against a certain candidate or referendum proposal. The term “ballot” may include a paper ballot to be counted by hand, a paper ballot to be counted on an electronic
scanner, the face of a lever voting machine, the image on a direct record electronic unit, or a ballot used on any other voting system.
(Effective January 1, 2018 or September 1, 2019 – see note) “Ballot” means an instrument on which a voter indicates that voter’s choice for a ballot item so that it may be recorded as a vote for or against a certain candidate or referendum proposal, and is evidenced by an individual paper document that bears marks made by the voter by hand or through electronic
means, whether preprinted or printed in the voting enclosure.
10. Definition for Office
(4) Office. – The elected office for which the candidate has filed or petitioned.
(2006-155, s. 1; 2006-259, s. 48(a); 2017-6, s. 3.)
11. Definition for election
The term “election” means any general or special election, a first or second primary, a run-off election, or an election to fill a vacancy. The term “election” shall not include any local or statewide referendum.
12. Definition for Abstract
“Abstract” means a document signed by the members of the board of elections showing the votes for each candidate and ballot proposal on the official ballot in the election. The abstract shall show a total number of votes for each candidate in each precinct and a total for each candidate in the county. It shall also show the number of votes for each candidate among the absentee official ballots, among the provisional official ballots, and in any other category of official ballots that is not otherwise reported.
13. Definition for Election
“Election” means the event in which voters cast votes in ballot items concerning proposals or candidates for office in this State or the United States. The term includes primaries, general elections, referenda, and special elections.
North Carolina Cases
Case Name: Britt v. Bd. of Canvassers of Buncombe County
Case Number: 172 N.C. 797
Case PDF: Britt v. Bd of Canvassers
Case Summary: An unmarked ballot containing the name of only one candidate for one office should be counted in his favor, the voter's purpose being clear.
Case Name: Barnett v. Midgett
Citation: 151 N.C. 1
Case Name: Harkrader v. Lawrence
Citation: 190 N.C. 441
Case PDF: Harkrader v. Lawrence
Case Summary: County canvassers judicially determine return of elections but do not determine the ultimate result.
Case Name: Ponder v. Joslin
Citation: 138 S.E.2d 143
Case PDF: Ponder v. Joslin
Case Summary: Where only protest before state board of election involving returns from multiple county senatorial districts related to one county, when amended returns from that county were certified in accordance with findings of fact and conclusions of law of state board, it would have legal duty to declare results of primary election and to certify nominee. Furthermore, the county board of elections is the proper agency to canvass returns in primary for selection of party nominees for county offices as well as general election to fill such offices. Although, the state board of elections is appropriate agency to canvass and judicially declare results of primary for nomination of candidate in senatorial district composed of more than one county. Nonetheless, the State Board of elections is permitted to go behind returns as its duty is not restricted to computation and tabulation of returns certified by various county boards. Nor is the State Board limited merely to investigating frauds and irregularities for the sole purpose of making report of such frauds and irregularities for further investigation. However, findings of fact and conclusions of law made by the State Board of elections may be reviewed in action instituted in the Superior Court of Wake county under statute, which such appellant action is not entitled to a jury trial.
Case Name: Rowland v. Bd of Elections of Vance County
Citation: 184 N.C. 78
Case PDF: Rowland v. Bd. of Elections of Vance County
Case Summary: The county board of election is vested with ministerial powers only, which consist of tabulating the returns and forwarding the same to the state board, and where required, and in case of county officers in forth-with declaring the result without altering the returns, and they have no power to pass on the legality or illegality of ballots.
Case Name: Strickland v. Hill
Citation: 116 S.E.2d 463
Case PDF: Stickland v. Hill
Case Summary: Challenger contended that the county board should declare and certify him as the Democratic nominee based on the returns supplied by the precinct officials. While the county board refused to declare the result of the election, it ordered a recount of the ballots based on the challenger's protest. Here the court held that the county board acted in the good faith exercise of its judgement, had authority to order and recount the ballots, and to declare and certify the challenger as the Democratic nominee pursuant to such recount.
Case Name: Strickland v. Hill
Citation: 116 S.E.2d 463
Case PDF: StricklandvHill
Case Summary: County and State Boards of Election shall be allowed access to ballot - especially when there are errors in tabulating returns and filling out blanks - boxes to make recount and declare results pursuant to board rules in order to protect the integrity of elections and rights of voters. Furthermore, the county board of elections shall have power and authority to pass judicially on all facts relative to election and judicially determine and declare results of an election. Even if persons not legally qualified to do so act as counters and tabulators at primary elections would not invalidate the vote of any qualified elector.
Case Name: Bell v. Bd. of Elections of Bertie County
Citation: 188 N.C. 311
Case PDF: Bell v Bd of Elections of Bertie County
Case Summary: When ballots were threw out by mistake, the voters request to amend their returns to include their respective ballots and should have been before the county board of elections before it signed the abstract of votes.
Case Name: Brown v. Costen
Citation: 176 N.C. 63
Case PDF: Brown v Costen
Case Summary: Legislature did not vest courts with power to investigate whether the registrar and judges of an election wrongfully refused to receive votes of qualified votes intending to vote for a specific candidate pursuant to section 11 which vest in the registrar and judges decision of good faith.
Case Name: State ex rel. Jones v. Flynt
Citation: 159 N.C. 87
Case PDF: Jones v Flynt
Case Summary: Referee in action involving title to office should determine which is the original return required by Revised Section 4348 and one so found to be original is prima facie correct.
Case Name: State ex rel. Robertson v. Jackson
Citation: 183 N.C. 695
Case PDF: RoberstsonvJackson
Case Summary: The result of an election for sheriff as declared by the count board of canvassers in accordance with their statutory duty, must be taken as prima facie correct.
Case Name: Wallace v. Salisbury
Citation: 147 N.C. 58
Case PDF: Wallace v. Salisbury
Case Summary: Where an action was brought by citizens against county commissioners to vacate a liquor election resulting in favor of license, and the answer squarely denied the allegations of the bill relating to the regularity of the election, a temporary injunction restraining the issuance of licenses was properly dissolved.