Skip to main content

North Carolina’s Canvass Process and “Day of Canvass”

The post-election “canvass” process occurs after every election. Canvass is the entire process of ensuring votes have been counted correctly and required audits have been completed, culminating in the certification of results during meetings of every county board of elections.

The “Day of Canvass” is when the county board of elections compiles election results from all precincts and makes the official report of the outcome of the election within the county. The board meets at 11 a.m. on the 10th day after every election held on the same day as a general election in November of the even-numbered year, and at 11 a.m. on the seventh day after every other election, to complete the canvass of votes cast and authenticate the count in every ballot type in the county by determining that the votes have been counted correctly. In most cases, the canvass meeting is held at the county board of elections office. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.5.

Following the county canvass, the state board approves the official election results.

To conduct the canvass, the county board examines the returns from precincts, including:

  • absentee official ballots,
  • sample hand-to-eye paper ballot counts, and
  • provisional ballots.

While North Carolina's process of compiling election results begins at individual voting precincts after the polls close on election night, the "canvass" process continues when the county board of elections compiles election results from all precincts and makes the official report of the outcome of the election within the county.

FOR CANVASS MONITORS: Report back to us on the results of your assigned county’s canvass (online or via paper form).  

Online Canvass Monitor Report Form

Fill out this form and let us know what happened.

Printable Canvass Monitor Report Form

Don't have a computer or tablet? Use this form to let us know what happened.

All Eligible Ballots Must Be Count. During the post-election period, county boards also conduct research to determine whether to wholly or partially count provisional ballots. All eligible provisional ballots are counted during the canvass process. N.C.G.S. § 163-182.2. The post-election period ensures that the ballots of eligible voters will be counted as long as they meet statutory deadlines and comply with all other laws. This allows more eligible voters to lawfully exercise their right to vote.

Results Are Audited. After each election, the State Board randomly selects two precincts in every county, where paper ballots must be counted by hand for the highest contest on the ballot – such as the presidential race in 2020 – and compared with the tabulated results. Called the “sample hand-to-eye count,” this audit recounts the ballots in the random precincts to ensure reliability of machine-tabulated results. Bipartisan teams at county boards of elections have been conducting these audits during the past week. The State Board of Elections conducts additional audits to verify the accuracy of the count. The results of all audits will be submitted to the State Board as part of the final certification of the election. For more information, see the Post-Election Procedures and Audits webpage.

In 2020, Democracy North Carolina and our partners deployed hundreds of volunteer “canvass monitors” to key counties to observe the count and that every eligible vote is counted. 

FOR CANVASS MONITORS: Find out what to expect when monitoring the Day of Canvass with our Canvass Monitoring “Cheat Sheet.”

Canvass Monitor 2.0 "Cheat Sheet"

Check out what was expected to observe the 2020 General Election canvass meetings.

2020 General Election Canvass Monitor Training 2.0 | "The Update"

On Nov. 6, 2020, we updated our trained monitors with the latest on the post-election "state of play" in North Carolina and how record turnout and close races could impact canvass meetings.

2020 General Election Canvass Monitor Training | "The Basics"

During this informative Oct. 15, 2020 training from leading election experts, canvass monitors learned best practices to monitor the all-important post-election county canvass process, including how to make sure more absentee and other votes count in this important election. View training slides here.

Got questions about canvass monitoring and how you can play a part? Email elections@democracync.org