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North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

Source: Al Drago / Getty

The gubernatorial race in North Carolina has technically not been decided.  With 4.6 million votes cast, Democratic challenger Roy Cooper reportedly leads incumbent Pat McCrory by less than 5,000 votes.

Last night, Roy Cooper declared victory in the race, but McCrory has announced that the results won’t be final until at least Nov. 18 when the provisional ballots are tallied. Let’s take a look at the process:

Provisional ballots are those cast by voters who didn’t have registrations on file, didn’t report an address change, or tried to vote in the wrong precinct. Absentee ballots also are accounted for. For example, in Mecklenburg County the Board of Elections has just under 3,700 provisional ballots and around 2,000 absentee ballots. Then:

  1. Each county Board of Elections identifies all eligible provisional ballots and adds them to the final election count
  2. On Nov. 18, each county has to certify its total election results.
  3. Final county counts are sent to the NC Board of Elections to finalize results.

If the final vote count registers a win by fewer than 10,000 votes, the runner-up can demand a recount.