Burr Beats Ross In Race For U.S. Senate; Gubernatorial Race Too Close To Call

Updated 12:20 a.m.

Republican Richard Burr has defeated Democrat challenger Deborah Ross in the race for U.S. Senate.

“I pledge to you to finish my public service doing all I can to make sure that the next generation feels the full effects of what we can accomplish,” Burr said in his acceptance speech.

His challenger Deborah Ross delivered her concession speech at state Democratic headquarters in Raleigh. She thanked volunteers and those who voted for her, and congratulated Burr on his victory. The final margin of victory for Burr over Ross was about 7 percentage points.

The race between Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper for North Carolina's governor is still too close to call. Any race within 10,000 votes could go to a recount.

McCrory spoke to supporters at around 12:30 a.m. and promised a thorough review of ballots.

"The process is continuing right here in North Carolina," he said, adding that a count of provisional ballots will take place between now and Nov. 18. "The election is not over in North Carolina."

Updated at 7:45 p.m.

The State Board of Elections has decided to extend the voting period in eight Durham County precincts, and one Columbus County precinct. Voting was extended by one hour in two precincts, and by shorter times in six others in Durham County.

Voters already in line at 7:30 p.m. will cast regular ballots; anyone in line during extended hours will cast provisional ballots.

"One hour is a lot closer to 45 and 30 minutes than 90 or 120 is, and that's an enormous amount of time in my viewpoint, and I think we are trying to find some common ground here to give the voters a chance without this going to the middle of the night," said State Board Chairman Grant Whitney Jr. 

The State Board of Elections will not report statewide election results until the last polls close.

Earlier today, polls opened across the state as voters packed churches, high school gyms and community centers to cast their ballots on issues ranging from local bond referendums to a historic presidential race.

Cooler temps in the 30s didn’t stop Marilyn Kapsch from passing out sample ballots to voters outside a polling site in Cary at 6 a.m.

She said one voter stopped to give her hand warmers: "It was really sweet."

Related: 2016 Election Returns and News

But for many voters outside the Herbert C. Young Community Center, the end of this acrimonious election season can’t come soon enough.

Wyetta Stille brought her 10-month-old daughter to the polls "so that she could vote in the presidential election." But Stille said she’s exhausted by it all.  

“We're ready for it to be over," she said.

By mid-morning, officials with the North Carolina State Board of Elections confirmed problems with electronic voter rolls in Durham County, but said polls there quickly switched to paper voter lists to remedy the situation, according to SBE Spokesman Patrick Gannon.

Gannon said the board anticipates lines at polls will be longer when work lets out this afternoon and encouraged voters to “try to plan your voting schedule accordingly."
 

Campaign signs crowd a corner outside a polling place in Cary on Nov. 8, 2016.
Credit Lisa Philip / WUNC

Record early-voting turnout

Even before polls opened today, state elections officials said more than 3.1 million people voted early across North Carolina. That represents more than 45 percent of the state’s nearly 7 million registered voters who cast their ballots ahead of today’s election, with Democrats and Republican turning out in roughly equal proportions.

Early voting turnout is a double-digit increase over the early voting period during the last presidential election in 2012, according to state officials.

“We are proud of the highest early voting turnout in the state’s history,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Statewide, North Carolina had more early voting hours and more sites than ever before.”

But percentages for Democratic and black voters remained lower compared to four years ago. Blacks comprised 22 percent of the early vote compared to 27 percent during the last presidential election, when Republican Mitt Romney won the state.

In interviews across the Triangle, voters seemed fatigued by the election.

“I’m glad it’s over,” said  Robert Matthews of Cary, adding the only difficulty he had voting was with the candidates themselves.

Presidential candidates make last pitch to North Carolina voters

In the presidential race, high-profile candidates stopped in the state up until the eve of Election Day.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump rallied supporters at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh Monday, while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton held a midnight rally on the campus of NC State University. Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine also stopped in Charlotte and Wilmington Monday. Trump and Clinton are running neck-and-neck in North Carolina.

In the race for North Carolina governor, Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper are scheduled to watch election results at separate events in Raleigh this evening.

Amy Eller is first time "Vote Protector" at a Durham, N.C. polling place on behalf of Democracy NC on Nov. 8, 2016.
Credit Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Election monitors across the state

North Carolina is also one of 28 states where monitors and observers with the U.S. Justice Department will watch polling sites today. They're looking for any voting rights violations, such as whether voters are discriminated against because of their race or language.

DOJ said it has people watching voting sites in 67 jurisdictions around the country, including many in Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Pennsylvania.

The agency says voters should report any disruptions at polling places to election officials or local law enforcement authorities, then to DOJ. The department will have staff members taking complaints on a toll-free hotline, 1-800-253-3931, and by email at voting.section@usdoj.gov.

A coalition of advocacy groups will also send more than 1,000 volunteers to polls across the state to monitor voting conditions. Durham's Southern Coalition for Social Justice will be joining these efforts, according to Allison Riggs, the group’s senior attorney.

“We help voters of all walks of life, of all political affiliations,” Riggs said. “We just want everyone to vote who's eligible to vote, and we want everyone to have a pleasant experience doing it. Because that's what will encourage people to keep coming out to vote.”

State law permits any member of the public to stand outside polling places and observe voting. As long as they remain fifty feet from poll entrances, observers may pass out campaign materials, conduct polling, speak to voters and monitor and report voting concerns.

North Carolina voters, venues prepare for results

Bars and restaurants in North Carolina expect to capitalize on big crowds to watch tonight's election results. Local night spots are hosting watch-parties with election-themed food and drinks.

In Raleigh, the Hibernian is throwing what it calls a "Hillz or Trump Party,” said General Manager Gerry McDermott, adding he expects the crowd will be comparable to big NCAA basketball games like UNC vs NC State.

“With the election the way it is - it's been kind of comical the whole way through,” McDermott said. “We've had huge parties come in to watch the debates, so we're kind of hoping for something around the same.”

In Durham, popular spots like the Pinhook and Motorco are also expecting full houses.  

Polls across North Carolina close at 7:30 p.m. “Anyone who is in line at 7:30pm...will be able to cast a ballot," according to a SBE spokesman.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.