Raleigh, N.C. — Interest in the high-profile Republican U.S. Senate primary appears to be driving increased participation in early voting this year.
The N.C. Board of Elections announced that more voters have cast in-person early ballots for this year's primary already than did during all of the 2010 early primary period. The total is up even though another day remains to early vote this year and 2010's early voting period was a week longer than this year's.
"We are encouraged by the strong showing despite severe weather across our state," said Board of Elections Director Kim Westbrook Strach.
Election workers compare turnout figures to 2010 because that was the last non-presidential election year. Presidential elections drive more turnout.
This year's turnout appears to be driven by Republicans.
That makes sense given that in 2010, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was coasting to an easy re-election victory, while several Democrats were vying for the chance to take him on. This year, an eight-way U.S. Senate Republican primary has prompted at least $5.4 million in television ad spending. As well, GOP Congressional primaries in the Triad, Triangle and down east have attracted attention.
According to statistics provided by the Board of Elections, roughly 7,074 more Republicans had voted by Friday afternoon this year than in all of 2010's early voting period. And including mail-in ballots, roughly 10,000 more unaffiliated voters have voted this year in the Republican primary than Democrats who have voted in the Democratic primary. Unaffiliated voters can choose which party's primary they will vote in.