Note: This guide was last updated on October 5.
On September 4, the first day of absentee voting, local election boards began mailing more than 640,000 absentee ballots to voters who requested them across the state of North Carolina. To put that into perspective, only 231,000 were requested in all of 2016, according to Old North State Politics.
By October 5, more than 1.19 million voters requested absentee ballots. That’s about 17 percent of all of the state’s registered voters. Nearly 360,000 were already returned and marked received.
In Mecklenburg County, more than 46,000 of you had voted as of October 5.
You might say the pandemic has influenced the way people are choosing to vote this year.
It’s also influenced when we’ve rolled out our elections coverage. In a typical year we’d have waited until October to release voter guides and stories, but this year we posted our guide the day after Labor Day, and we’ve been continuously updating it since.
Below you’ll have key dates to remember, a few logistics about absentee ballots, and a quick look at all the races for Mecklenburg County voters this year. We’ll continue to update. The point of releasing it in early September was to put all of the races in one place for you, with links to information about each candidate, for those of you bubbling in a paper ballot now.
We’ve added several new stories since the initial release, including closer looks at several races. Find all of our elections coverage here.
The ballot is enormous. Mecklenburg County residents will make selections in about 40 contests, give or take, depending on where you live.
We’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible. And good news: To be an informed voter you don’t have to read them all. In the races for Congress, state senate, state house, and county commission, for instance, we’ve provided maps. Simply find your district there, then scroll to the entry for your candidate.
No matter who you side with, know that in North Carolina, each vote is important. Not just in the presidential race.
Well, in 2016, Democrat Roy Cooper won the gubernatorial contest by just 10,277 votes out of 4.6 million cast — a narrow, 0.22 percent margin of victory that ultimately put Cooper, not Pat McCrory, in charge of the state’s coronavirus response this year.
And on the other side, in 2014, Republican Thom Tillis won his U.S. Senate seat by 45,608 out of 2.8 million cast — a narrow, 1.5 percent victory that ultimately helped create several other narrow victories for Republicans these past six years, including a 52-48 vote to acquit President Trump on impeachment charges this year.
September 4 — Absentee ballots go out
October 9 — Regular voter registration deadline
October 15 — Early voting begins at 33 sites throughout Mecklenburg County
October 27 — Last day you can send in an absentee request form and still get an absentee ballot. (Tip: Do it long before this day.)
October 31 — Last day of early voting
November 3 — Election Day
To request an absentee ballot: The North Carolina Board of Elections opened an Absentee Ballot Portal last week on its website. You can also still mail in your request form the old-fashioned way. It’s a five-step process.
The ballots are lava: After you receive your ballot, don’t allow anyone else to take it, touch it, or tamper with it. You need one witness signature this year (in the past you’d need two). If you are unable to take your ballot to the mailbox or to the board of elections, here’s a list of “near relatives” who are permitted to submit it for you. Otherwise, you put it in the mail. Or you take it to the Board of Elections.
After you send your ballot: You can now track your ballot, much like you do a package, through the state board of elections’ new ballotrax tool. You can also still check with the local board of elections, or your voter information page, to see if it’s been processed.
Some contests have a little more oomph. The presidential race has been given some attention in a few outlets. The Senate race, too.
Some other things we’re watching on the ballot:
- The Mecklenburg County Commission became all Democrat in the blue wave of 2018. After two years in power, through a 2019 property revaluation, are you, the voters, satisfied enough to keep the board 9-0? Or do you want Republicans to take back a seat or two?
- A huge rematch between Bill Brawley and Rachel Hunt for state house. Their 2018 race was decided by just 68 votes out of 38,000-plus cast. If you live in Matthews or Mint Hill, your vote could be the difference here.
- A candidate for county commissioner whose first name is Friday and whose website is voteforfriday.com.
- The state treasurer’s race promises to be intense, and yeah, you read that right.
- There’s a state auditor candidate who served six months probation for stalking.
- The state agriculture commissioner race will tell us a lot about the voters’ thoughts on big farming and the environment.
- The “Elevator Queen,” Cherie Berry, isn’t on the ballot for the labor commissioner’s job for the first time since 2000.
So here we go. Here are the races, in the order they’ll appear on your ballot. (That doesn’t mean the most important ones are at the top. The county commission races don’t come until the end, and all they do is set your property tax rates.)
We’re voting for president, you may have heard. More stories on this race to come, including where each candidate stands on issues that directly relate to Charlotte.
Tillis has come a long way from a well-respected youth sports coach in Cornelius. He became state speaker of the House in 2010, and was the architect of the Republican statewide dominance that spanned the decade (and multiple gerrymandering court cases, and countless Moral Monday protests). As a U.S. Senator he’s become a trusted ally of President Trump. He’s also been outspoken against sheriff Garry McFadden and McFadden’s decision to end the department’s relationship with I.C.E.
Cunningham, meanwhile, is an Army reservist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who was raised in the barbecue capital of Lexington. An attorney, he became a state senator at 27. His platform offers a contrast to Tillis, if that’s what you’re looking for. It includes investing in clean energy, protecting women’s rights to choose, and closing wage gaps.
12th district (the green crescent): Alma Adams (Democrat, incumbent) is unopposed
Adams, a vocal opponent of the president who wears lots of neat hats, will again represent most of Mecklenburg County in Congress. She’s also one of the most effective campaigners for Joe Biden — especially in older, established Black neighborhoods.
Bishop, a former state senator, won the do-over election for the Ninth District in September 2019, defeating Dan McCready. Since then he’s been solidly beside Trump’s side on just about everything. Bishop this spring attended ReOpen NC rallies against Cooper. Wallace, meanwhile, served as chair of the 9th District of the N.C. Democratic Party since 2017 — meaning she was part of McCready’s marathon run through the 2018 election and 2019 do-over.
In many ways this’ll be a referendum on the coronavirus response. On one side you have Roy Cooper, who’s kept restrictions in place all summer despite pleas from bar owners and gym owners. On the other hand you have Forest, the lieutenant governor who’s questioned the effectiveness of masks and held a maskless campaign stop with 100 people indoors in Statesville this summer. In other matters, Forest was also a defender of HB2, or the 2016 bathroom bill, which overrode Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance and led musicians and conventions to cancel events here.
Cooper’s four years have largely been about vetoes upheld and vetoes overturned. In his first two years, as Republicans had supermajorities in the legislature, nearly everything he did was overridden. But since 2018, when Democrats broke it, many of his vetoes stood. Among them: legislative Republicans this summer attempted to override his limits on mass gatherings and closures of bars, but they didn’t have the votes. Two years ago, they would’ve.
Point is, your vote counts.
[For full breakdown of the governor’s race, with responses from the candidates: N.C. Governor’s race: Where the candidates stand on 9 key issues facing Charlotte]
The lieutenant governor serves as the president of the state senate and would step in as governor if needed. And for the first time, North Carolina’s lieutenant governor is guaranteed to be a Black person. Holley, a Raleigh native and Howard University graduate, has served in the state house; much of her platform involves justice and equity. Robinson, a Greensboro native, served in the Army Reserves and lists among his top issues: fighting against abortion, for the second amendment, and standing up for law enforcement.
The attorney general handles consumer complaints and lawsuits against the state. Stein was out front this spring, warning people about being defrauded during the coronavirus pandemic. O’Neill has served three terms as district attorney in Forsyth County, which includes Winston-Salem.
Wood is seeking her fourth term as auditor. Before that, she was a CPA and CFO for a furniture company. Her opponent is an unlikely one: In the Republican primary in March, Street defeated an attorney with a dozen years’ experience despite having a criminal record that includes serving six months probation for stalking charges before those charges were dismissed. He’d also been arrested for assault and disorderly conduct.
This is an interesting one. Troxler is beloved by old-school farmers throughout the state, and the very powerful pork industry. Wadsworth was the youngest woman ever elected to office in North Carolina; she was a 21-year-old and elected to the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors in 2010. Now she’s 31.
[For full breakdown of the ag commissioner’s race, with responses from the candidates: From legalizing pot to solving food insecurity: Understanding N.C.’s agriculture commissioner race]
Goodwin was insurance commissioner from 2009 to 2016, and now he’s the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Causey’s gained a reputation for being tough on fraud and foiling a conspiracy that involved leaders of his own party. They’re two people who are deeply connected to the larger political parties of the state, and they’re running for one of the most sneaky-important jobs in North Carolina.
BREAKING: We’ll have new elevator royalty. Cherie Berry, the “Elevator Queen” who’s been the labor commissioner for 20 years, didn’t run again. The labor commissioner job is far bigger than just elevators, though. This is the department that oversees workers’ rights — an increasingly important issue in the coronavirus era. All the stories you see on investigations into safety at poultry plants and hog-slaughtering operations, and on wage disputes, fall under this department.
Dobson is a product of the state’s community college system and has been a state house member since 2013, representing the mountain area around Morganton. He stepped into a controversy this year, though; he oversees the committee that included language to keep some death investigation records private. Several news organizations blew the story up, and the language was removed. Dobson says there was no ill-intent.
In 2014, at 29, Holmes became the youngest person elected to the Wake County Board of Commissioners, and she’s served as chairwoman the past two years. She’s a UNC law graduate and attorney who in her time as commissioner has helped pass affordable housing funding, with a focus on tenants who’ve been wrongly evicted.
Marshall has held the job since 1996. That’s the year she became the first woman ever elected to statewide office in North Carolina by beating none other than NASCAR legend Richard Petty. Sykes, who was CEO of a manufacturing company, considers himself a “conservative outsider.” He volunteered for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2015 and 2016.
During the primary, Katie Peralta wrote a story that called the treasurer’s race the “most important race you’ve never heard of.” She’ll be back with a more detailed look at the general-election contest this fall. But the treasurer oversees $100 billion in state pension funds. Folwell was the focus of a 2018 Wall Street Journal story headlined “This Man Started a Tussle Over North Carolina’s $96 Billion Pension Fund,” which looked as his decisions to move $7 billion from outside equity managers into cash and bonds in 2017.
Chatterji is an early-40s Cornell graduate with a Ph.D. in economics from University of California-Berkley, and moved to North Carolina in 2006 to teach at Duke’s business school. In 2010, he was a senior economist on President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Truitt is a former high school English teacher who was appointed by former governor Pat McCrory to be his senior advisor on education. He also awarded her the Order of the Longleaf Pine, the highest honor for a civilian in the state. She’s been critical of Cooper’s schools’ reopening response, and says local districts should’ve been given more autonomy. Mangrum, meanwhile, was raised in Jacksonville, N.C., where her father was a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune. She started her career as a teacher near Greensboro, then N.C. State and UNC Greensboro. She applauded Cooper’s schools’ reopening approach this summer.
Don’t think the judicial races are important? Get a traffic ticket. Or be a parent of a teenager who makes a dumb mistake. Or, on a broader scale, try to rein in partisan gerrymandering. A few people shape our lives. The judges on these lists have overseen everything from murder trials to the case of SouthPark Susan.
[For a deeper dive into the judicial races: Election guide: A breakdown of each judicial race on the Mecklenburg County ballot]
Viser earned a law degree from Campbell in 2000 and became partner at James, McElroy & Diehl before becoming a judge in 2013. Brooks, whose law degree is from UNC Chapel Hill, started as a public defender and then moved over to the district attorney’s office, before starting her own firm. The two faced each other in the 2014 district court race, and Brooks won.
One key thing this year: The Mecklenburg County district court elections are all countywide again — meaning all residents will vote for all 12 seats, regardless what district that judge is from.
Two years ago, the state legislature passed a law that said the Mecklenburg judicial elections should be held by district. So if you lived in Davidson, you only voted for a district court judge from Davidson; or if you lived in Ballantyne, you only voted for a judge in Ballantyne.
What was the problem with that? Well, district court judges here oversee cases from all over the county. So a crime committed in Huntersville could be heard by a judge from east Charlotte.
Two judges — Alicia Brooks and Donald Cureton — challenged the law, saying that they were “racially sorted” into predominantly white districts. A three-judge panel agreed with them last November.
So now we’re back to countywide voting. That means if you live in Mecklenburg County, regardless of your location, you’ll vote in all of these district races. Only two (1 and 9) are contested:
1- Kimberly Best (Democrat, incumbent) vs. Pat Finn (Republican)
2- Aretha Blake (Democrat) unopposed
3- Jenna Culler (Democrat) unopposed
4- Donald Cureton Jr. (Democrat) unopposed
5- Faith Fickling-Alvarez (Democrat) unopposed
6- Ty Hands (Democrat) unopposed
7- Gary Henderson (Democrat) unopposed
8- Christy T. Mann (Democrat) unopposed
9- Rex Marvel (Democrat, incumbent) vs. Sunny Panyanouvong-Rubeck (Republican)
10- C. Renee Little (Democrat) unopposed
11- Elizabeth Thornton Trosch (Democrat) unopposed
12- Roy H. Wiggins (Democrat) unopposed
Beasley became the first Black woman to become Chief Justice last year when Roy Cooper appointed her. Now she’s running for a full term against Newby, who’s been a justice on the court since 2004.
Jackson’s one of the most recognizable politicians in the county, a third-term senator with 60,000-plus Twitter followers, a millennial who joined the military after 9/11 and was deployed to Afghanistan. Nichols, meanwhile, is a businesswoman and author who’s served as president of the Good Friends Luncheon and co-chair of the UNCF Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon that brought Oprah Winfrey to town last year.
Mohammed, an attorney and assistant public defender, was an advocate for Raise the Age (in which 16- and 17-year-olds are no longer tried as adults) long before he became a state senator two years ago. He’s continued work along those lines in the senate, pushing for expungements for young offenders. Brosch, who’s owned Brosch Computer Services since 1985, ran for Congress against Mel Watt in 2012 and has signed a term-limit pledge if elected.
Niday is an insurance broker whose platform includes pursing laws to limit abortions, to expand school choice, and continue the budget practices of the Republican-led legislature over the past 10 years. Salvador is a fifth-generation Charlottean who founded RETI, a nonprofit aimed at helping families reduce energy costs through new technology and education. Her priorities include expanding Medicaid and helping rural hospitals, and investing in efficient infrastructure.
Waddell has held the seat since 2015, and defeated Shields in 2018. Shields has an extensive background in local government and served as the interim county manager in 2014.
In this north Mecklenburg district, Marcus has recently advocated for removing a Confederate monument in Cornelius. She’s a Duke Law graduate and former litigation attorney. Cole, a contract postal worker, has run for numerous offices as a Libertarian candidate over the years.
State House of Representatives
Belk’s a Garinger High graduate who won the southeast Mecklenburg seat in 2016 while being treated for breast cancer. She was one of the few Democrats on the floor to shout down Republicans when they held a surprising vote to override Cooper’s budget in 2019. Tondreau is an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm.
Brown is an attorney who lives in Camp Greene neighborhood in West Charlotte. Munden is a diabetes health coach. They’re running to replace Chaz Beasley, the popular 34-year-old Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in the primary.
A rematch of a very close 2018 race for this Huntersville seat. It promises to be a big one again. Clark had raised $250,000 as of June 30, the most recent finance reports, and Bradford raised about $137,000, unusually large sums for a state house race. (Compare that to District 88, where Tondreau reported about $3,000 in receipts and Belk about $63,000.)
Clark is a paralegal who wants to expand Medicaid and unemployment benefits in N.C. Bradford is the founder of Park Avenue Properties and PetScreening.com, and held the seat for two terms from 2015 to 2018.
Majeed is a Vietnam vet who served eight years on Charlotte city council before going to Raleigh. He’s been a steadfast supporter of hate crime legislation. Rowe hadn’t turned in campaign finance reports as of August.
A fairly classic conservative v. liberal contest here. Thompson says she supports the Second Chance Act, the Second Amendment, school choice, and police. She also says she’s “saddened” that abortions happen in her district, which includes the A Preferred Women’s Clinic on Latrobe Avenue. Autry, meanwhile, is a Navy veteran and former Charlotte city council member who advocates for public schools, more funding for courts and public defenders, decriminalizing marijuana, and Tom Waits records.
Logan was the first Black female police officer in Asheville when she joined the force in 1977. Mauney is a 30-year paramedic who’d raised less than $1,000 by the end of June.
Carney, a former county commissioner, is up for her 10th term in the state house this year. She’s served since 2003 in Raleigh and is well known for surviving two near-death incidents. Kirby is a Charlotte native who counts among his platform: addressing student loan debt, LGBTQ+ rights, and increasing teacher pay.
Maybe the most interesting house race in the state. Brawley was one of the most powerful people in Raleigh until Hunt, the daughter of former governor Jim Hunt, defeated him in 2018. The margin couldn’t have been closer — 68 votes out of 38,198 cast. Think of it like this: if 35 people switched their vote, it would’ve gone the other way. Hunt has been the primary sponsor of 16 bills, including one that would ban pet leasing. Brawley is a Garinger graduate and Army veteran who played an outsized role in the Republicans’ crafting of North Carolina in the 2010s, including sponsoring a controversial bill that would give outlying municipalities the power to start their own charter schools.
There’s been money pouring into this south Charlotte race, too. District 104 covers SouthPark and Quail Hollow, and runs all the way down to Ballantyne. Pomeroy, a CPA with 30 years of business experience, had raised nearly $100,000. And Lofton, an attorney who served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Advisory board before going to Raleigh, was at about $137,000.
Harris is an economic consultant who defeated Scott Stone in 2018; Bynum is a Myers Park High grad and has been the secretary of the county’s Republican Party since 2018.
Carla Cunningham (Democrat, incumbent) is unopposed
Alexander, the son of civil rights legend and former NAACP president Kelly Alexander Sr., has been in the house since 2009 and serves on a number of important committees, from energy and energy efficiency to juvenile justice. Rivette, a marketing and brand development owner, takes several shots at Alexander on his website, and several more at Governor Cooper, and advocates against raising the minimum wage, among other things.
Like ’em or not, these three will be your at-large county commissioners. No Republicans are running. For years, the top vote-getter in this race was the chairman of the board. That changed in 2014, though, after then-chairman Cotham fell out of favor with her fellow Democrats following her abrupt firing of the county manager. She still piled up the most votes in 2016 and 2018, and at this point, she’s started a new streak in which the person with the most votes isn’t the chairman.
Powell defeated Puckett 56-44 in 2018 in a race that many people came to believe was symbolic of a dramatic shift in the Mecklenburg suburbs. The north Mecklenburg district (Cornelius, Huntersville, and Davidson) will be a key battleground in the presidential race.
District 2: Vilma Leake (Democrat, incumbent) is unopposed
Dunlap, the commission chairman, is running for his fifth term on the board. Okure is a native of Nigeria who moved to Mecklenburg County 22 years ago and has a website name we can all get behind, voteforfriday.com.
District 4: Mark Jerrell (Democrat) is unopposed
Ridenhour, a Marine Corps veteran who helped block the arts sales tax last fall, held the spot until 2018, when he lost to Susan Harden, who decided not to run again this year. Meier is the co-founder of the Charlotte Women’s March.
Levy is an attorney who joined Ridenhour in rallying voters against the arts sales tax last year. Rodriguez McDowell pulled off a rather stunning victory of 2018, defeating Bill James in the south Mecklenburg district. She’s served on the Health and Human Services committee, among others.
Register of Deeds: Fred Smith (Democrat) is unopposed
St. Clair is a Charlotte native and has been a small business owner for 15 years — he runs Dunx Coffee. Before that he was a park ranger. He says he wants to expand urban and backyard farms and move the board’s focus away from stream erosion. Dunlea studied at Washington State and has a master’s in environmental assessment from N.C. State; he has extensive experience in environmental assessment. George is a climate activist and senior marketing executive. And David Michael Rice is a familiar name, and in a notorious way — he’s run for nearly every office in the city, and has referred to himself as Lord God King.
For Charlotte residents, three bonds to consider. Here’s an overview of the Capital Investment Plan and what specific projects the money will go toward. In the “Bond Year(s)” dropdown menu, select 2020.
Transportation bond – $102 million
This follows in the footsteps of the 2014, 2016, and 2018 bonds that voters approved. The funds would go to new and widened streets, improving streetscapes and sidewalks, and acquiring land for transit, among a host of other things listed. Some of the projects on the list for 2020 funds include the Independence Boulevard corridor sidewalk and bikeway improvements, the Northeast corridor, and the Dixie Berryhill Road areas.
Housing bond – $50 million
The Housing Trust Fund lands on the ballot every two years now. In 2018, voters approved an increase from $15 million to $50 million. It’s at $50 million again this time. The money goes to increasing the affordable-housing stock by bridging funding gaps for projects like the one Roof Above just announced last week.
Neighborhood Improvement Bond – $44.5 million
This would help pay for capital costs and infrastructure improvements in neighborhoods across the city. Everything from gutters and storm drainage to landscaping.