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AP Decision Notes: What to expect from North Carolina's state and presidential primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in North Carolina will decide a full slate of primaries Tuesday, including contested races for governor, U.S. House and other offices, not to mention the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.
FILE - North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a Republican candidate for North Carolina governor, speaks at a rally, Jan. 26, 2024, in Roxboro, N.C. North Carolina voters in the primary election on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, were choosing nominees for president and a host of other positions, from governor and attorney general to seats in the U.S. House the General Assembly and state judgeships. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in North Carolina will decide a full slate of primaries Tuesday, including contested races for governor, U.S. House and other offices, not to mention the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

President Joe Biden is the only candidate listed on the Democratic primary ballot, although voters have the option of selecting “No preference” in either contest. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and self-help author Marianne Williamson had attempted to get on the ballot, but the State Board of Elections decided in January to finalize the candidate lists provided to them by the state parties.

Former President Donald Trump and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are the only active candidates on the Republican ballot. A voter had attempted to block Trump from appearing on the ballot, saying he was disqualified for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the elections board dismissed the challenge in December.

Biden and Trump are the overwhelming front-runners in their bids for a second term. Super Tuesday’s massive delegate haul from more than a dozen states could put them within reach of clinching their parties’ nominations. Trump could reach that milestone as early as March 12; for Biden, it’s March 19.

Also on the ballot Tuesday are contested primaries to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. State Attorney General Josh Stein, former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan and three other candidates will compete on the Democratic ballot. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, state Treasurer Dale Folwell and attorney Bill Graham will compete for the Republican nomination. Stein has Cooper’s backing, while Robinson won Trump’s endorsement.

Primaries are also being held for other statewide offices such as lieutenant governor, attorney general and treasurer, as well as for the state Senate and state House, and the U.S. House, including five districts where the incumbent is not seeking another term.

Nonpresidential races where no candidate receives a single vote over 30% of the total voteshare may go to a May 14 runoff if the second-place finisher requests it.

Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:


The North Carolina presidential and state primaries will be held on Super Tuesday, March 5. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET.


The Associated Press will provide coverage for the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries as well as key state races. Biden is the only Democratic presidential candidate on the ballot, but he does face a “No Preference” ballot option. The Republican ballot options include Trump, Haley, “No Preference” and former candidates Ryan Binkley, Chris Christie, Ron DeSantis, Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy. Among the notable state races are the Democratic and Republican primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and treasurer, the Republican primary for secretary of state, the Democratic primary for attorney general as well as various primaries for U.S. House, state Senate and state House.


Registered party members may only vote in their own party’s primary. Unaffiliated voters may vote in any primary.


There are 116 pledged Democratic delegates at stake in North Carolina, and they’re awarded according to the national party’s standard rules. Twenty-five at-large delegates are allocated in proportion to the statewide vote, as are 15 PLEO delegates, or “party leaders and elected officials.” The state’s 14 congressional districts have a combined 76 delegates at stake, which are allocated in proportion to the vote results in each district. Candidates must receive at least 15% of the statewide vote to qualify for any statewide delegates and 15% of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for delegates in that district.

Republicans have 74 delegates at stake, 32 of which are statewide delegates awarded proportionally to candidates who receive more than 20% of the statewide vote. Each of the 14 congressional districts awards three delegates. If the leading candidate reaches 60% in a congressional district — or if only one candidate surpasses 20% of the vote — all three delegates go to the candidate with the most votes. If more than one candidate receives 20% but no candidate surpasses 60% in a congressional district, the candidate with the most votes receives two delegates while the runner-up receives one.


Trump won the 2016 North Carolina primary against a more competitive field than he faces this year. In that election, Trump edged out U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by about 3 percentage points. Cruz almost managed to take the state by winning the second- and third-most populous cities of Raleigh and Greensboro and the surrounding areas, as well as a handful of counties in western North Carolina. Although past primary results show that Haley appeals to a much different type of Republican primary voter than Cruz, her likeliest path to victory would resemble Cruz’s performance. To pull off an upset, she would need to rack up big wins in Raleigh and Greensboro and improve on Cruz’s performance by also winning in Charlotte, the most populous city in the state. Trump carried Charlotte in the 2016 primary, but it’s the type of area where Haley has found some success this cycle.

Biden had a 19-point victory over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary, and the president is the only named candidate on the ballot in 2024. A winner call should be possible if the initial votes of the night confirm that he was an overwhelming lead over “No preference.”

Nonpresidential races with at least four candidates could go to a May 14 runoff if no one receives at least one vote more than 30% of the total vote and the second-place finisher requests one. This could delay winner calls on those races. Runoff-eligible races in which the leading candidate hovers near the 30% mark may not be called until additional votes are counted, even if the front-runner leads the rest of the field by a significant margin.

The AP will call winners in races in which a candidate has clearly received more than 30% of the vote. AP will declare a runoff in races in which no candidate reaches the threshold by advancing at least one of the candidates to the runoff election.

The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.


Turnout in the 2022 U.S. Senate primaries was about 9% of registered voters in the Democratic primary and about 11% in the Republican primary.

As of Monday, more than 690,000 votes had been cast before Election Day, about 46% in the Democratic primary and about 54% in the Republican primary. In the 2022 U.S. Senate primaries, pre-Election Day voting made up about 50% of the total vote in the Democratic contest and about 37% in for Republicans.


In the 2022 primary election, the AP first reported results at 7:38 p.m. ET, or eight minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 12:52 a.m. ET with about 99% of total votes counted. Results on Super Tuesday may be reported later than in previous elections because of a new state law requiring elections officials to wait until polls close before tabulating pre-Election Day votes that were cast in person.


As of Super Tuesday, there will be 132 days until the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, 167 days until the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and 245 until the November general election.

Robert Yoon, The Associated Press

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