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Canvass monitoring for the 2024 Primary, provisional ballots provide insight into ongoing voter challenges at the polls

MORRISVILLE, NC (3/28/2024) — The State Board of Elections unanimously certified the results of the March 2024 primary election in North Carolina on March 26.

On March 5, primary elections took place across all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. In accordance with state law, county boards convened on March 15, ten days after Election Day, to complete the official canvassing (or certification) process. Democracy North Carolina, in collaboration with coalition partners Common Cause North Carolina and Southern Coalition for Social Justice, organized a comprehensive canvass monitoring program. The program trained monitors to observe the final vote counts and support voters as needed during local boards of elections’ canvass and pre-canvass meetings in over 52 counties. Disability Rights NC, League of Women Voters, ACLU of North Carolina, and You Can Vote also joined the effort, deploying canvass monitors across multiple counties in North Carolina.

Nearly 11,490 North Carolinians cast a provisional ballot in the 2024 Primary. A critical “safety net” for voters, provisional ballots also provide a window into the issues that North Carolinians face at the polls. Reasons for casting a provisional ballot included having “no record of registration,” showing up at the “incorrect precinct” on Election Day, and not having a valid photo ID for voting.

Our initial analysis of the provisional ballots cast reveals that:

  • Voter registration problems are the main reason why NC voters cast provisional ballots. In some cases, these problems are a result of voter confusion about when re-registration is necessary (for example, when a voter moves to a new county). In others, this is due to failure by the Division of Motor Vehicles or other administrative agencies to correctly process registrations, leading to ballots being discounted through no fault of the voter. This highlights the importance of voters checking their registration before heading to the polls, as well as the role of Same-Day Registration during the early voting period in helping voters address last-minute registration problems.
  • Voter ID provisional ballots are being counted at very different rates. The voter ID law creates two different paths for voters who present at the polls without valid photo ID – the “ID Exception Waiver,” which requires no further action by the voter once completed, and the “CBOE Return” provisional, which requires the voter to come back to their county board of elections (CBOE) office with a valid form of photo ID by the day before the final canvass. While most voters who completed an “ID Exception Waiver” provisional ultimately had their ballots counted, the opposite was true for “CBOE Return” voters – approximately 74% of those voters did not have their ballots counted. When contacted by Democracy NC volunteers reminding them of the process, many of these voters were unclear that they needed to return in order for their ballot to count and/or cited work, transportation, or child care responsibilities as obstacles to getting to the CBOE before the deadline. However, calls to Democracy NC’s Election Protection Hotline and an initial review of canvass monitor reports indicate that this data shows only part of the full picture, since not all voters are being reliably offered the choice to vote using an ID Exception Waiver.

Other issues of note that arose during the canvassing process included:

  • Absentee ballots received after Election Day not counted. 750 voters did not have their absentee ballots counted due to the elimination of the long-standing three-day grace period in Senate Bill 747. These are ballots that were received after Election Day, often due to postal delays. In Davie County, for example, board of elections staff reported that one voter paid $5 in priority mail and had their ballot timely postmarked only for it to be rejected due to the change in election law.
  • Lack of online access to the ballot counting process. At a time when questions and concerns about our election processes are at an all-time high, virtual meeting access to CBOE meetings remains an issue. We applaud those local boards of elections that stream, record, or otherwise make their meetings remotely available and encourage others to follow suit – increased transparency and public access is key to better understanding and increased trust of the process that goes into verifying ballots.

“As we look ahead to the General Election this fall, when hundreds of thousands of less experienced voters will come to the polls, it is clear that continued education and outreach will be needed to voters around the voter ID requirement, elimination of the grace period for mail-in absentee ballots, and ensuring that a voter’s registration is up to date,” said Cheryl Carter, Co-Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina. “Democracy NC and our partners stand ready to provide voters with the information they need to navigate any and all challenges in casting their ballot and having it count.”

Over the next several months leading up to the General Election, Democracy NC will be recruiting volunteers to support its Elections Advocacy work, which includes canvass monitoring, advocating for strong early voting plans, and promoting fair funding for elections at the local level.

“The next step in our year-round Elections Advocacy work is to engage our local volunteers in pushing for strong elections budgets,” said Keith Chappelle, Policy Program Associate with Democracy NC. “Underinvestment in election administration has consequences for voters, election administrators, and the quality of our democracy. Issues with recruiting, training, and retaining poll workers and CBOE staff connect back to local elections funding.”

In the coming weeks, Democracy NC will further analyze the results and impact of these elections through a report. For more information on how to get involved in Democracy North Carolina’s Elections Advocacy work or to learn more about the canvass process, visit


Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and advocacy to strengthen democratic structures, build power among disenfranchised communities, and inspire confidence in a transformed political process that works for all. Learn more at