by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
County canvases are when the county boards of elections make their official tabulation of all votes in an election. By law, it starts at 11:00 AM, ten days after an election. The 2020 general election canvas will take place on November 18. County canvases are open to the public.
If the county board cannot agree on the official count (likely due to disagreement about whether to count certain ballots), the county will report that to the North Carolina State Board of Elections for a resolution.
While most of the canvas is a formality, there can be contentious debates over whether to accept or reject some ballots. That includes provisional ballots or absentee ballots received after election day without a postmark.
They are attended by the five members of the county board of elections, board staff members, and interested members of the public. There may also be party officials and campaign attorneys present.
Some county canvasses will also be attended by political activists, on the left and right, who take a “trust but verify” attitude towards boards of elections.
Most county canvasses will occur at the county board of elections office unless the board has voted to move to a different (usually larger) place to meet. Contact your county board of elections for details.
The final step in making the election official is the State Board of Elections canvass on November 29.