This Tuesday, and moving forward, North Carolina voters will have to wait longer than in the past for election results.

The Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision paved the way for states to alter elections laws free of federal oversight. In North Carolina, while much attention has been drawn to new same-day registration requirements and voter ID, a lesser-known provision may ultimately have a substantial impact on future elections: County boards of elections will no longer be able to process in-person early ballots until after polls close on Election Day. 

Since the dawn of early voting in the Tar Heel state, the process of counting and tabulating those ballots began in the afternoon. Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer says particularly in general elections where the vast majority of ballots in North Carolina are cast early, this puts added pressure on the 100-county board of elections workers.

"Now they’re going to have to tabulate and process the early votes after the polls close and that will push the reporting of those early votes to probably an hour or maybe an hour and a half beyond when the polls close," he says. "And then they have to turn around and process the Election Day votes and that will be even later."

He says while this new early vote provision may level the swings from early voter counts favoring Democrats, to Election Day voter counts favoring Republicans, it may also have unintended consequences — particularly among those North Carolinians expecting an early dump of early votes on Election Day.

"And if they don’t see something coming out in the next 30 minutes or maybe even the next hour after the polls close, some folks may say, ‘There’s something nefarious going on,’" says Bitzer. "There’s nothing nefarious going on in this process. It is simply that the county boards and the state boards of elections are following the law."

Super Tuesday polls open at 6:30 a.m. in North Carolina, and will remain open until 7:30 p.m.

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