Early Voting Surges Across North Carolina, With Republicans Seeing Big Increase

Oct 22, 2018

After five days of early voting in North Carolina, turnout resembles early voting from the presidential election in 2016 – not a mid-term election.


Even though there is no Senate race on the ballot, both Republicans and Democrats seem eager to cast a vote in a mid-term election that President Trump has said is a “referendum about me.”

During the presidential election two years ago, 410,000 North Carolinians had voted after four days of early voting — with 13 days of early voting remaining.

This year, nearly 431,000 people have voted after five days of early voting and with 13 days of early voting remaining. That's according to an analysis by Democracy NC, a non-partisan group whose goal is to increase voter participation.

“This first five days is mirroring the total numbers of ballots cast in 2016," said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College. "And so I think this a dynamic that shows voter enthusiasm, but we aren’t sure now where that enthusiasm is coming from.”

It’s difficult to compare early voting to previous elections, since the schedule often changes. This year, for instance, there is only one day of early voting on Sunday in Mecklenburg County, on Oct. 28. That’s historically a big day for Democratic voters.

In 2014, there were only 10 days of early voting overall. Many counties, including Mecklenburg, have fewer early voting sites for this election.

Nationwide and in North Carolina, Democrats expect a "blue wave" as voters are motivated to vote against President Trump.

But so far, Republicans also seem enthusiastic about the election in North Carolina.

The number of registered Republicans who have cast early votes is up by 44 percent compared with the 2014 midterm election, according to Democracy NC.

“The number of Republicans that have been casting ballots, they have to be very happy," Bitzer said. "There was a lot of concern about depressed enthusiasm, but this shows they are as energized as anyone thought they would be.”

Democrats have seen their numbers increase as well, but not by as much. There's been an increase of 26 percent in registered Democrats voting early compared to the same period in 2014, according to Democracy NC analysis.

Nearly twice as many unaffiliated voters have cast early votes so far, compared to 2014.

Bitzer said one potentially troubling sign for Democrats is that black voters haven’t seen their participation numbers increase at the same rate as white voters. Black early voting is up just 9 percent from 2014, compared to a 52 percent increase in white voters.

Trump is planning to campaign across the country before the Nov. 6 election. He is scheduled to hold a rally at Bojangles’ Coliseum in Charlotte Friday night.

This story has been updated to show that there is one day of early voting on Sunday in Mecklenburg County, on Oct. 28.