In a bout of late-night pessimism on election night, Publisher Brian Clarey called the state of North Carolina for Donald Trump. But we have since rescinded that call with an explanation and an apology.
The state elections database had reported 100 percent of precincts reporting shortly after midnight, with Trump holding the lead by 76,701 votes, according to the state Board of Elections site (76,737 according to the NY Times) and almost 1.5 percentage points — a margin that still stands as of Wednesday morning. Combined with the high turnout of 74.6 percent of the electorate, we felt it was only a matter of time before the major media operations called the state for Trump, plus we were exhausted and distracted. And so we went with it, feeling less sure of the call with every passing minute.
As it stands, there are perhaps 290,000 votes left to be counted, according to the NY Times estimate, absentee ballots that, after numerous rounds of lawsuits, can be tallied as late as Nov. 12, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Biden would need to win about 184,000 of those votes, about 63 percent of them, in order to claim North Carolina.
The Senate race between Cal Cunningham is still live too — we called it for Tillis after he claimed victory on Election Night, but a closer look at the numbers gives us pause again.
Right now, Tillis is up by 96,689 votes. Cunningham would need more than 193,000 of the remaining ballots, more than two-thirds, in order to win the Senate seat.
Both of these scenarios are possible, if not exactly likely. But they underscore the importance of counting every single vote before making the call in a battleground state. And they show just how important every vote can be.
In North Carolina, we’re muddling through the absentee ballots today, and perhaps we’ll have clear winners in both races before the Nov. 12 deadline.
And as state totals fall in, the answer to our most nagging national question may be provided by the end of the week.
This time, we promise we’ll wait until the end to make the call.