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Election Information

This page contains generalized information on the various types of elections that the State Board of Elections helps to administer. For information on the coming year's specific elections, click here.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections aids counties in administering election events across the state every year. These elections can be broadly divided into two categories: Statewide general elections (often simply called "general elections") and municipal elections. As stipulated by N.C. General Statute §163-1(c), statewide general elections occur in even-numbered years, are held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.

Municipal elections, dates, and procedures are outlined in Article 23 and Article 24 of N.C. General Statute §163. Municipal elections occur in odd-numbered years, so as to not coincide with general elections. Municipalities are allowed latitude in planning their elections; as such, North Carolina provides for four different methods of municipal election. Depending on the year and the given election method, these elections can occur in September, October, or November.

Statewide General Elections

On Tuesday next after the first Monday in November in the year 1968, and every four years thereafter, or on such days as the Congress of the United States shall direct, an election shall be held in all of the election precincts of the State for the election of electors of President and Vice-President of the United States.

North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 163, Article One

 

Statewide general elections take place every two years on the Tueday following the first Monday of November. This means that they can occur as early as November 2 or as late as November 8, depending on when the first Monday falls. Statewide general elections always occur in even-numbered years. Notably, every other statewide general election has the office of President of the United States on the ballot.

Although the presidency is the most notable contest voted on during statewide general elections, the North Carolina General Statutes outline other national, state, and county offices to be voted on during a statewide general election. Those offices are:

 

Office Term Length
United States Senator 6 years
United States Representative 2 years
Governor 4 years
Lieutenant Governor 4 years
Secretary of State 4 years
State Auditor 4 years
State Treasurer 4 years
Superintendent of Public Instruction 4 years
Attorney General 4 years
Commissioner of Agriculture 4 years
Commissioner of Labor 4 years
Commissioner of Insurance 4 years
All other state officers whose terms last four years. 4 years
All other state officers whose terms are not specified by law. 2 years
Office Term Length
North Carolina State Senator 2 years
North Carolina State Representative 2 years
Appellate Court Judge 8 years
Superior Court Judge 8 years
District Court Judge 4 years
District Attorney 4 years
County Commissioner 2 years
Clerk of Superior Court 4 years
Register of Deeds 4 years
Sheriff 4 years
Coroner 4 years
County Treasurer (Only elected in certain counties) 2 years
All other elected county officials 2 years

Municipal Elections

During odd-numbered years (so as to alternate with statewide general elections) municipal elections are held to elect the governing officials (mayor, city council, town council, etc.) of cities, villages and towns across North Carolina. Not all municipalities will have an election in a given odd-numbered year. While most municipalities elect their officials during odd-numbered years, a few municipalities elect their officials in even-numbered years. Although municipal elections are conducted by county boards of election, only residents of the municipality are qualified to vote in the election. These voters must have resided in the municipality for at least 30 days prior to the date of the election.

North Carolina law allows for four different types of municipal election methods. These four methods have been outlined by the North Carolina Legislature in Chapter 163, Article 24 of the North Carolina General Statutes. A municipality's chosen method of election is codified in their charter, but must be one of the four types outlined by the State in order to comply with state law.

 

  Election Method Description Governing Statute
1 Partisan primary and election method This method is similar to the primary and statewide general election held in North Carolina during even-numbered years. If more candidates file for a party nomination than the number of seats for that contest, then these candidates must compete in a partisan primary election that is held in September. If there is no clear winner in a primary contest, there may need to be a second primary for the contest that will be held in October. The general election (with one candidate from each party on the ballot) is then held in November. N.C. General Statute §163-291
2 Nonpartisan primary and election method These contests are non-partisan, which means that each candidate's party affiliation will not be printed on the ballot. If the number of candidates for the contest is greater than twice the number of seats to be elected, there will be a primary election. The primary will trim the number of candidates down to twice the number of seats. For example, if there are 7 candidates running for 2 seats, the top 4 vote-getters in the primary would advance to the general election. If needed, the primary would occur in October before the general election in November. N.C. General Statute §163-294
3 Nonpartisan plurality method This is the most common municipal election method. All candidates for a position are listed on the ballot, without party affiliation. The top vote-getters are elected, regardless of whether or not they recieved a majority. If the contest is for more than one seat, the person or persons recieving the next-highest vote totals are also elected. For example, if there are 7 candidates running for 2 seats, the candidates that finish first and second are elected. N.C. General Statute §163-292
4 Nonpartistan election and runoff method This method is largely the same as the nonpartisan plurality method, with one important distinction. If a winner in these elections does not recieve a majority (50%+1) of the votes, the candidate who came in second is allowed to ask for a runoff. In these runoff elections, all candidates are eliminated except the plurality winner and the runner-up. Those two then run head-to-head in the runoff, with the winner being given the seat. N.C. General Statute §163-293