Someone at the Brookings Institute recently claimed, “we won’t know much on election night.” The good news is that, with a handful of exceptions in especially close races, we will not have any of that foolishness in North Carolina.

We Will Almost Certainly Know Who Won the Senate Race Tonight

County boards of elections tabulate all one-stop (early) ballots and all mail ballots they receive before election day on the afternoon of election day. Under North Carolina law (§ 163-234(2)), they can begin tabulating as early as 2:00 PM.

Those results are among the first released. That means a majority of votes will be reported shortly after polls close. The North Carolina State Board of Elections expects “about 99 percent of all ballots cast in North Carolina in the 2022 general election.”

North Carolina Is a “Red Shift” State. Adjust Expectations Accordingly

Because one-stop and mail votes are reported early, North Carolina is a “red shift” state. Democrats traditionally dominate the combined early and mail voting, while Republicans prevail on election day.

That means Democrats in statewide races, such as the U.S. Senate race between Cheri Beasley and Ted Budd, will likely start the evening hundreds of thousands of votes ahead.

We saw that in the 2020 election with the presidential race. As seen in the chart below, Joe Biden had a 360,579 lead at 8:17 PM (results could not be reported until all polls closed, and closing was delayed at some precincts). Trump overtook Biden around 10:00 PM.

Depending on when the last polls close, we should go to bed knowing who our next U.S. senator will be.