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The North Carolina primary is Tuesday. These are the key races to watch

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to cast their ballot for candidates in November's general election. Here's what voters in Charlotte need to know.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — WCNC Charlotte has the latest updates are results come in from the May 17 North Carolina Primary Election. Click here for the latest results.

RELATED: INTERACTIVE MAP: North Carolina primary election results

Original story continues below.


Tuesday, May 17 is Election Day for North Carolina's primary election, with many key races being on the ballot in the Charlotte area. 

The 2022 North Carolina primary election is headlined by races in the U.S. Senate and House, but there are some important races on the local level, particularly in Mecklenburg County. Charlotte City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and the district attorney will all have races on the primary ballot. 

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Early Voting Turnout

Early voting closed at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Michael Dickerson, the director of elections in Mecklenburg County, said on WCNC Charlotte's Flashpoint that turnout was good for early voting. 

"I think early voting is starting to become more dominant," Dickerson said, explaining that early voting was 35-40% higher than in previous elections. 

Dickerson said the primaries typically don't generate this much interest, which leads officials to believe there could be a strong overall turnout. 

"We've got two congressional seats, where both sides are competitive, a U.S. Senate race, where both sides are competitive, plus you've got on this ballot, which is really strange, a city of Charlotte primary," Dickerson said. 

Statewide, 8% of registered voters have already participated in the election. State data shows 577,232 votes were cast either by mail or during the two-week early voting period.

“This is a new day in North Carolina primary elections. How this will translate into what we will see come in tomorrow on Tuesday for election day, I don’t think anyone knows because the vast majority of votes in past primaries have been on election day," Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, said.

According to Mecklenburg County data, 41,126 people voted early. The majority of those ballots were counted on May 13 and 14, with over 6,000 votes being tallied each day. So far, 996 absentee ballots have been approved, bringing the total number of votes to 42,122 countywide. It's the second most early votes in the state, behind Wake County.

The busiest precincts in Mecklenburg County for early voting were University Area, Beatties Ford and the Southpark Library. 

For now, there's a pretty even split between Republican and Democratic ballots cast. During the early voting period, more unaffiliated voters chose a Republican ballot.

"The question of will my vote actually make a difference in a primary election, particularly one that has no opposition party candidate challenging for the fall, so the real election is this Tuesday, it could make all the difference in the world," Bitzer said.

Key Races

The highest-profile race is for U.S. Senate, with three Republicans vying for the nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr. The trio includes former Gov. Pat McCrory and current U.S. Reps. Ted Budd and Mark Walker, with Budd being backed by former President Donald Trump. 

“I think this North Carolina senate seat will be in the top five of the most competitive across the country," Bitzer said.

The winner needs 30% or more of the votes to avoid a runoff election in July. Budd has been ahead in the polls for several weeks and all signs are pointing to a competitive race in November, against presumptive Democratic winner, Cheri Beasley.

“I think Democrats will have some strong headwinds going against them, the President’s party typically loses seat, and this may be a real test for Democrats to see if they can win this particular seat in an open seat contest," Bitzer said.

Another race getting national headlines is in the U.S. House, where Madison Cawthorn is seeking a second term. Cawthorn, who also has Trump's endorsement, has been under attack from House Republicans in recent weeks for controversial comments and personal incidents. 

Election Day FAQs

When are the polls open?

Polls are open on Election Day from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Voters who are in line by 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot. 

How do I find my polling place? 

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has a Polling Place Search function on its website. 

Do I need a photo ID to vote?

No, a photo ID is not currently required to vote in North Carolina. 

What if I have an absentee ballot? 

If you requested and received an absentee ballot, it must be returned to your county's board of elections by 5 p.m. on Election Day, May 17. If you choose to mail your ballot, it must be postmarked on or before Election Day to be counted. 

You cannot return an absentee ballot to a polling place on Election Day. Also, if you choose to mail in your ballot on Election Day, you may not vote again in person. 

Can I register to vote on Election Day?

No, same-day registration is not available on Election Day. If you aren't registered to vote on Election Day, you cannot vote in that election. 

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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