Voting is complicated. Before You Vote is a new podcast from The Daily Tar Heel's City and State desk breaking down all you need to know about voting before the 2020 election.
In the eighth Election Day episode, City & State Editor talks to UNC professor and Orange County Board of Elections member Jason Roberts about what to expect on election night.
Sonia Rao: Voting is complicated, especially for college students, who are often first-time voters, or have just moved to a new county or state.
Voting during a pandemic is even more complicated.
I’m Sonia Rao, the City & State Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. Welcome to Before You Vote, where we’ll be breaking down what you need to know about voting every Tuesday until Election Day.
AD: This podcast is sponsored by Vote America. Election Day is November 3. Get all the information you need and find your polling location at VoteAmerica.com/Students.
Sonia Rao: Election Day is finally here.
Over 3 million voters in North Carolina have already cast their ballots.
If you haven’t voted yet, North Carolina polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Any voter in line by 7:30 will be able to cast their ballot. You do not have to bring a photo ID.
You must vote at your assigned polling place. You also must be registered to vote. You can find your polling place and check your voter registration statues at www.ncsbe.gov.
Once the polls close, election results will start to come in. The Daily Tar Heel will be reporting these results on election night.
But what can people expect to see from these results?
Jason Roberts, a member of the Orange County Board of Elections and a political science professor at UNC, said voter turnout in North Carolina has been high.
JR: Well, throughout the country, we're seeing very high turnout in early voting and vote by mail. So we may see fewer votes on election day than we would in a normal year. In North Carolina, we're already over 50% turnout of registered voters. And about 70 percent of the percentage of people who voted in 2016 have already voted. So election day might be a little sleepy in some places. We have some precincts here in Orange County that already have 75 percent turnout. So you know, it could be a calm day in terms of what's going on at the polls.
SR: Roberts said most states don’t finalize election results until a number of days after the election.
JR: In North Carolina, the results are not finalized until Nov. 13. That gives time for absentee votes that are postmarked on election day to get in, gets time for overseas ballots cast by military members and whatnot to get in.
SR: However, he said what could be different this year is an increase in early voting and voting by mail.
JR: That's going to vary a lot by state in terms of when that vote is processed. So for example, in North Carolina, the vote by mail is being processed as those ballots arrived. And so when the polls closed on election night, those ballots have already been processed, and scanned and ready, those results will sort of appear first.
SR: He said this could impact what results look like as they come in.
JR: If you look at the demographics and the party registration of people who voted by mail, that early vote that comes in in North Carolina may look heavily democratic. But the vote that comes in later may be more Republican. So you really can't tell a lot about that.
SR: In North Carolina, absentee ballots are inserted into tabulators as they come in, and results are released when polls close on Election Day. But Roberts said this isn’t the case for other states.
JR: In contrast, a state like Pennsylvania, they are not allowed to actually process their vote by mail until after the polls are closed on election day. So the first results that come in for Pennsylvania will be the vote in person vote on election day. And the vote that comes in much later, it could be later that week even is going to be developed by mail.
SR: He said because of this, it’s important to not draw too many conclusions from results early on in the night.
JR: You could have a situation in a state like Pennsylvania where the early vote looks heavily Republican, and the vote that comes in later could be heavily democratic. And so I think more so than is usually the case, you're going to really pay attention to what's coming in and try not to draw too many conclusions from the results we see earlier in the night because it could end up being quite misleading.
SR: North Carolina is a swing state in this election. Roberts said because he thinks most North Carolina results will be in by 11:00 or 12:00 on Election Night, the state could be an indication for the rest of the country.
JR: If you see either candidate winning a substantial, you know, three or four percentage points if Joe Biden's winning North Carolina by say three or four points, that probably bodes well for him throughout the country.
Likewise, if Donald Trump is winning it that way that, you know, by a large margin, that probably bodes well for him. If it's, you know, razor thin and close, which a lot of the polls suggest it might be, it probably does not tell us that much about how other states will look.
SR: He said there are other states to pay attention to as well.
JR: Another state that also has results that will come in fairly early that will help us figure things out, is Florida. Going to either Canada's winning big and Florida. That's a good sign for them. But again, the polls suggest Florida will be quite close. But if I say 12, one o'clock, we know that the candidate has won both Florida and North Carolina, that's a good sign for that person.
SR: Again, today is Election Day. Polls are open until 7:30 p.m.
If you encounter a problem at the polls or with your ballot, let us know by texting “ASK DTH” to 73-224.
If you have any questions or tips, you can send us an email at email@example.com.
Tune in next Tuesday for our special Election Results episode.
This episode was produced by Meredith Radford.
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