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State Board of Elections certifies results of 2020 election

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The state board of elections on Tuesday officially certified the overall majority of the general election, with the exception of five races that have pending protests, following a 4-1 vote.

Prior to the vote, North Carolina Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson-Bell spoke about the turnout and efforts made to conduct the general election safely during the pandemic, praising the state for providing the most voting sites and hours in history, along with the most votes cast in a single day.

Brinson-Bell said North Carolina saw its highest number of registered voters this year — 7.3 million — and praised the state for being the first in the U.S. to begin sending absentee by mail ballots to voters on Sept. 4. Of the more than 1.4 million requests, more than 1 million absentee by mail ballots were cast.

Additionally, the state had a record number of one-stop early voting sites — 471 — with the most votes cast in a single day, 348,000, and 3.6 million early votes cast.

Overall, the state saw a 75.4% voter turnout, including absentee by mail, election day and early voting ballots.

Tuesday’s vote also certified the state’s 15 electoral votes for President Donald Trump, who defeated President-elect Joe Biden in the state by a margin of 1.34 percentage points, or 74,483 votes. In total, Trump carried 2.76 million votes, and Biden carried 2.68 million votes.

However, protests are pending in several counties and will be formally certified after the county boards officially canvass the results. Pending protests include the House District 36 race in Wake County, the Hoke County Board of Education race and the Wayne County Register of Deeds race.

Races to be formally certified by the state board, or those within the state board’s jurisdiction, include the state Supreme Court Chief Justice race and the Wake County District Court Judge — 10F. In the chief justice race, Republican candidate Paul Newby currently leads Democrat incumbent Cheri Beasley by about 400 votes.

Board member Tommy Tucker, a former Republican state senator who served District 35 from 2011-18, opposed the motion to certify the results. The motion carried 4-1, but Tucker spoke after to explain his opposing vote.

Tucker cited personal concerns for the country and the state regarding election integrity and the constitutionality of the state board and attorney general, alleging the board violated the U.S. Constitution by making changes to the election process as it was underway. He added that the U.S. Constitution puts the right to make changes to election processes in the hands of each state’s legislature, not the courts.

“We need to get this right for the next election,” he said.

Tucker joined the board in October after two state board members resigned following a court order that allowed absentee by mail ballots to be counted until Nov. 12 as long as the ballots were postmarked by Nov. 3.

Board Secretary Stella Anderson, a Democrat, said the Nov. 12 deadline extension was the result of problems with the U.S. Postal Service and that all five board members at the time were united in the efforts they pursued to allow for a safe election amidst the pandemic.

“We were not operating under anything that was outside of what courts ordered and supported,” she said.

Board member Jeff Carmon, a Democrat, called Tucker’s allegations “dishonorable” and commended the board for taking action to ensure everyone could vote in a safe manner.

But Stacy Eggers IV, another Republican who was appointed in October, echoed some of Tucker’s concerns, adding that he thinks the board’s reputation has taken a hit by the courts in the last few months. He said it’s the board’s job to uphold the laws, not make them.

Chair Damon Circosta made final remarks before motioning to adjourn by stating that the board has to understand neither party has a monopoly on the state. For example, the state elected a Democrat governor but a Republican president. Circosta added that none of the comments should deter from the fact that the election was held during a pandemic, safely and securely, and with a record turnout.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to schedule hearings for two complaints filed by Rickey Wilson against Brenda Bowman and Sue Hicks of the Camden County Board of Elections.

Following the remarks, Tucker was the only one who opposed adjourning the meeting after Circosta denied Tucker’s request to make additional comments. Circosta said each member was allotted time to speak.

During her presentation prior to certifying the results, Brinson-Bell said no reports of COVID-19 had been linked to voting in North Carolina. She also reported more than 14 million pieces of personal protective equipment had been delivered, along with 6 million single-use pens.

Additionally, she credited a new design platform for the state board of elections website, which is able to provide more data than before, along with the establishment of an online absentee by mail request form and BallotTrax to track absentee by mail ballots.

Brinson-Bell also cited a Civitas Institute Poll, which indicated 68% of North Carolina voters believe the election was conducted fairly.

Circosta said the best way to get the number from 68% to 99% is ensuring boards of elections members don’t openly support or oppose candidates.

Now that the results have been certified, prevailing candidates will receive certificates of election within no later than next week.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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