Rusty Jacobs

Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC. Rusty previously worked at WUNC as a reporter and substitute host from 2001 until 2007 and now returns after a nine-year absence during which he went to law school at Carolina and then worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Wake County.

As a reporter, he has covered a wide array of topics including military affairs, sports, government and damaging storms.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican challenger Lt. Gov. Dan Forest faced off Wednesday night in the lone debate of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race. It was a spirited exchange over education, health care, economy and the COVID-19 crisis.

Tens of thousands of absentee ballots already returned by North Carolina voters have been processed without issue. But a much smaller number has been set aside – held up while elections officials eagerly await guidance on how to cure deficiencies like missing witness information.

A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether North Carolina is providing voters sufficient opportunity to fix absentee ballots that arrive without full information on who witnessed it.

On a late afternoon in Granville County, Linda Smart took a stroll around beautiful Lake Rogers Park with her husband, Henry, and a friend.

"We're hikers and kayakers and stuff, so we're usually at parks," said Smart, 65.

The Smarts recently moved north from Durham to Granville to find a little more wide open space.

Ken Raymond and David Black suddenly resigned from the North Carolina State Board of Elections late Wednesday claiming they were misled about a proposed settlement of lawsuits over absentee voting rules. It was an abrupt turnaround from the unanimous vote the two members joined just days earlier in a closed session of the elections board.

It didn't take long for a GOP candidate to exploit the resignations of the two Republican members of North Carolina's State Board of Elections.

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Check out our 2020 Voter Guide for information on absentee ballots and more. And be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide and legislative elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast, and follow reporters Rusty Jacobs and Jeff Tiberii on Twitter.

This year, North Carolina voters will make crucial decisions at the polls that could impact state politics and laws for at least the next decade.

In addition to casting their ballot in the race for the White House, North Carolinians will also vote in statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. Senate, the state attorney general, the state supreme court, and U.S. House races.

More than a tenth of registered voters in North Carolina have requested absentee ballots this year — significantly higher than in previous elections.

The North Carolina General Assembly recently enacted legislation to ease absentee-by-mail voting this year and to make polls safer for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted along party lines Monday to back plans for early voting on Sundays in some counties.

Interest in absentee-by-mail voting is way up this year in North Carolina. Voters are submitting absentee ballot request forms at a record pace  requests statewide are already 10 times ahead of where they were four years ago and elections officials are working hard to keep up.

Few people, if anyone, track voting data in North Carolina more closely than Michael Bitzer. The Catawba College political scientist posts near daily upates on his Old North State Politics blog, crunching the latest numbers from elections officials across the state. And Bitzer's steady stream of tweets make something very clear: 2020 is shaping up to be very different from previous presidential election years.

Hospitals in North Carolina are ready to start seeing more non-COVID-19 patients as state public health restrictions are slowly being eased.

Hospitals paused certain elective procedures and clinic visits back in mid-March. All part of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus and to conserve limited supplies of personal protective equipment, like gowns and masks.

A few hundred people gathered Tuesday in downtown Raleigh for a "ReOpen NC" rally. They were protesting Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order, which was put in place to limit coronavirus infections in North Carolina.

The Raleigh Police Department released body camera footage on Wednesday evening of an officer’s non-fatal shooting of Javier Torres. A judge authorized the release of the body and dash camera footage of the incident earlier on Wednesday.

Super Tuesday narrowed the Democratic presidential field to a race between two men: former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The majority of Democratic North Carolinians cast their ballots for Biden, giving him the state and adding fuel to his comeback after a landslide win in the South Carolina primary. And today former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Biden.

In North Carolina's 2016 primaries, about a third of voters cast ballots early, with the remaining two-thirds turning out on election day.

"If that pattern holds, we could be talking about a million registered voters participating on Tuesday.  That would be pretty substantial," said Michael Bitzer, professor of political science at Catawba College, noting that North Carolinians cast just under 800,000 early votes by absentee ballot and at one-stop polling sites this year. There are more than 6.9 million registered voters in the state.

Not too long ago, a Democratic primary in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District was little more than an exercise in futility: picking a candidate to run a losing campaign against an entrenched Republican incumbent.

State lawmakers adjourned today without taking up a vote on overriding Governor Roy Cooper's budget veto. 

North Carolina's newly redrawn congressional map has convinced at least one Republican incumbent not to run for reelection next year. U.S. Rep. George Holding issued a statement today acknowledging that changes to the 2nd Congressional District factored into his decision not to seek another term in 2020.

The Confederate statue known as Silent Sam will never again stand on a UNC campus, according to a consent order handed down today by a state court.

An investigation launched by the Republican-controlled General Assembly has concluded that Gov. Roy Cooper improperly handled negotiations over a $57.8 million fund related to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.

The North Carolina Senate could give final approval to a new congressional district map today.

A joint legislative committee finished up its work Wednesday on redrawing North Carolina's 13 congressional district boundaries, producing more than a dozen possible replacements. Now,the redistricting process must move through the house and senate with candidate filing for 2020 less than three weeks away.

State lawmakers will be back in Raleigh Tuesday to continue work on redrawing North Carolina's 13 congressional district boundaries. A joint house-senate redistricting committee is acting on a state court's urging that lawmakers fix what the judges indicated was a map gerrymandered with excessive partisan bias.

A bill awaiting the governor's signature or veto aims to rid North Carolina voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens. But critics see it as a blatant attempt at voter suppression targeting a minority community.

Heading into 2020, state and county elections officials want to make sure North Carolina voters don't let fears of ballot tampering or outside interference keep them from going to the polls.

In a time-crunched, court-ordered process, the North Carolina General Assembly recently redrew the state's legislative district maps to be used in next year's elections. A Wake County Superior Court had found the Republican-controlled legislature had gerrymandered dozens of House and Senate districts for extreme partisan advantage. The redrawn maps are now under court review.

The state house unanimously passed a spending bill Wednesday, but it wasn't the two-year budget plan vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper late last month.

Republicans and Democrats at the North Carolina General Assembly are tangled in a tense battle of wills over the state budget. And the outcome may hinge on whether the Legislature's GOP leadership can lure some Democrats to their side on a veto override.

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