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Why can we call some races in North Carolina and not others?

Almost 24 hours after the polls closed in North Carolina and we still don't know the outcome of several key races. Why are some settled and others left uncalled?

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The word of the day is patience.

We are still waiting on several key races to be called in our state - specifically, what presidential candidate North Carolina's electoral votes will go to. Right now tens of thousands of absentee ballots have not been counted in our state and the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden is so close that those ballots could make a difference.

High Point University political science professor, Brandon Lenoir, said it's a numbers game.

"It really comes down to math," Lenoir said. "We sit down and we look at the number of votes that are outstanding compared to the number of votes that separate the two candidates and right now the number of votes that are outstanding is greater than the number of votes that separate the two candidates. So we have to wait until all of the votes are counted before we know who won the state of North Carolina."

So we are waiting on enough absentee ballots to be counted before we decide races like the ones for president and senate. But where are those ballots? Thom Little, from UNCG's Political Science department, said that's unclear.

"There could be three categories," Little said. "One would be we know 110,000 have been requested but not returned and we know that 950,000 have been returned and counted. But maybe there are some that have been returned but not counted, maybe that's the 100,000 but I don't know that."

So the question becomes, with all of that uncertainty, how long will we have to wait? The Supreme Court ruled those votes can be counted up to November 12th as long as they're postmarked on or before Election Day. Lenoir doesn't think we'll have to wait that long but it will take some time.

"Part of the reason for that nine day additional time is we have to remember that North Carolina has a very large military population," Lenoir said. "Quite a few of those personnel are deployed overseas so if they got an absentee ballot to vote in the North Carolina election and they mailed it on or just before election day it could take as many as seven business days before their ballot makes it back to North Carolina. So that's part of the justification for that extended period of time."

Keep in mind, we don't have all of the answers because there is no precedent for an election during a pandemic. The number of people who voted by mail this year jumped dramatically in North Carolina and those are the ballots that we are still waiting to tally. 

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