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North Carolina's May 2024 primary runoff election: What you need to know

2024 Primary Election Day in North Carolina
Matt Ramey
Voters head to the polls in Clayton, North Carolina for the primary election on March 5, 2024.

For the first time in more than a decade, polling places throughout North Carolina will open Tuesday for a statewide primary runoff election.

Here’s what to know about the races:

What’s on the ballot?

There’s a Republican runoff for state auditor and lieutenant governor. That's because both positions attracted lots of candidates in the March GOP primary, and no one got above 30% of the vote — the requirement to win outright.

In the 13th Congressional District, which wraps around the Triangle area, voters will decide between Smithfield attorney Kelly Daughtry and former federal prosecutor Brad Knott — but Daughtry ended her campaign just days before this runoff, noting that former President Donald Trump’s support of Knott made his victory likely.

And in addition to the Republican action, there’s a nonpartisan runoff for the Orange County school board between Jennifer Moore and Bonnie Hauser. Moore was the incumbent in the race until she resigned amid questions about her academic background, according to a report from the News & Observer.

Lastly, there's a Republican primary runoff in Gaston County for a county commission seat there.

Who’s eligible to vote?

In the statewide and congressional runoffs, voting is limited to registered Republicans, plus unaffiliated voters who either picked the Republican ballot in March or didn’t vote in the original primary. Registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the March Democratic primary aren’t eligible — with one exception.

If you live in the Orange County school district (Hillsborough and rural areas of the county that aren’t part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district), you’re eligible to vote in the school board runoff regardless of your party affiliation.

When are polls open?

6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14.

What will turnout look like?

Runoff primaries typically have extremely low turnout. Voters are unlikely to experience any lines at the polls, and their ballots will be more influential than in the higher-turnout March primary. Less than 4% of registered voters participated in the last statewide runoff in 2012. A total of 58,000 voters participated in selecting the Democratic nominee for labor commissioner, for example.

Who are the candidates?

In the GOP runoff for lieutenant governor, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill faces Hal Weatherman, a former aide to Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Congressman Madison Cawthorn. Weatherman finished first in March, and he has the endorsement of current Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

There haven’t been many high-profile endorsements in the state auditor race, where attorney and UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees member David Boliek faces Jack Clark, a certified public accountant and staffer at the state legislature.

You can read more about the state auditor candidates in this article, and you can hear interviews with them in the latest episode of the WUNC Politics Podcast.

What happens if Kelly Daughtry wins the 13th Congressional District even though she dropped out?

It’s an unlikely scenario, but low-turnout primaries can yield surprises. According to political scientist Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University, Daughtry would have the option to accept the nomination as the GOP nominee, or she could formally withdraw from the race. If she turns it down, opponent Brad Knott wouldn’t automatically win — under state law, N.C. Republican Party leaders from the 13th District would determine the nominee. “Those folks are the ones who get to decide whether it's going to be Knott or presumably somebody else,” Cooper said.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.