State News

2.6 million ballots cast early in North Carolina

Posted November 2, 2008
Updated November 3, 2008

— More than 2.6 million people – or about 42 percent of registered voters – have already cast a ballot in North Carolina, with turnout heavy among blacks and registered Democrats in a trend that could favor Barack Obama.

Obama, who plans to visit Charlotte on Monday, has focused much of his attention on getting voters to the polls before Election Day in this surprise swing state. So far, his efforts appear successful: State Board of Elections data shows that 52 percent of people who have voted are enrolled as Democrats, while 30 percent are enrolled as Republicans.

By comparison, about 46 percent of all registered voters in the state are declared Democrats, while 32 percent are listed with the GOP. In 2004, the gap in early voting between parties was only 12 percentage points in favor of Democrats, compared with the 22-point split this year.

State Board of Elections director Gary Bartlett said such a strong turnout in early voting has eased concerns of an overwhelming Election Day. The state had initially anticipated as many as 3 million people would vote on Tuesday, an estimate now scaled back to about 2 million because of the surge of early voters.

"We've got a little breathing room," Bartlett said. "But certainly I've stopped trying to pick. We're part of history, and I guess we'll see what Election Day brings."

About 2.4 million voters cast a ballot on Election Day in 2004.

Bartlett's estimate of about 4.6 million total voters would mark a turnout of 74 percent of those registered. Four years ago, 64 percent went to the polls.

"By historical standards, you would figure it would be around the standard 65 percent at the most," said Hunter Bacot, the polling director at Elon University. "To see it tipping toward three-quarters is remarkable."

The record turnout in North Carolina is 69 percent, which occurred in 1984.

The numbers, which include both one-stop and absentee balloting, are not necessarily a harbinger of easy victory for Obama and his fellow Democrats. An Associated Press-GfK poll released last week showed that 14 percent of Democrats in the state planned to back Republican presidential candidate John McCain, while only 4 percent of enrolled Republicans planned to back Obama.

The early voting volume far outpaced the numbers from four years ago, when 1.1 million people cast a ballot before Election Day. Some one-stop sites this year have been plagued by hours-long lines, which led the State Board of Elections to urge counties to keep polling places open an extra four hours on Saturday, the last day of early voting.

Black voters – likely galvanized by the candidacy of Obama, the first black major-party nominee for president – have been surging to the polls. They comprise 26 percent of voters so far, even though blacks are 21 percent of the population. Blacks made up 17 percent of the early voting population in 2004.

Brent Woodcox, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, downplayed the numbers and said the GOP strategy for the state was to target infrequent voters – those who have only cast ballots once or twice in the past four elections – and get them to the polls in the early period.

"We're counting on our core supporters to come out on Election Day," Woodcox said. "Obama has banked a pretty large portion of votes, but I think they've turned out mostly their hard-core supporters and people that were going to show up on Election Day anyway."

The two major-party candidates for U.S. Senate both spent Sunday afternoon campaigning after morning church services. Democratic challenger Kay Hagan greeted voters in Fayetteville, Wilson and Greenville. Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole spent her day in High Point, joining campaign volunteers as they went door-to-door talking with residents.

Hagan said she had expected this year to be a historic election, but didn't anticipate turnout to be as strong as it has been.

"You can feel the energy," she said Sunday between campaign stops. "These people, they want new ideas. There's truly a renewed passion for change in Washington."

In the governor's race, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee, had no public events Sunday. Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue visited the predominantly black Union Baptist Church in Durham.

On Monday, McCrory planned three rallies, including Charlotte, while Perdue scheduled five stops from her hometown of New Bern to Asheville.

Libertarian Party nominee Mike Munger has to teach classes at Duke University on Monday. He spent the weekend visiting voters along U.S. Highway 64, traveling more than 670 miles as he started Friday in Murphy and wrapped up Sunday evening in Dare County.

Munger said the people he talked to, especially in less-affluent towns in the mountains and eastern North Carolina, remain pessimistic about their future no matter who gets elected. "They're skeptical that change is going to help them," Munger said.

Munger is aiming to get more than 2 percent of the vote so that his party can remain on the ballot through 2012. An Associated Press-GfK poll released last week showed Munger with the support of 4 percent of those surveyed.

"I'm more confident than I was two weeks ago," he said.

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  • vote4changeASAP Nov 4, 2008

    FACT: 14 percent of Democrats will support McCain while only 4 percent of Republicans will vote for Obama.

  • Bendal1 Nov 4, 2008

    SEOpro,

    Yeah, it burns my boat too that the media characterizes all Republicans as voting for McCain. My wife and I are both registered Republican and we both cast our vote early for Obama, so it's just unfair that the assumption is all (R) registered voters went for McCain. Plus, I know several Republican voters who voted for Obama, so I guess we'll all just have to sit and wait for the returns now, won't we?

  • vote4changeASAP Nov 4, 2008

    veekee, that would mean Flager and Wright went against IRS rules when they publically denounced Bush, McCain and Clinton from the pulpit at UCC in Chicago. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • SEOpro Nov 3, 2008

    It burns my boat that the liberal media shows their bias so readily. They "assume" that just because registered democrats have turned out to vote early, it means that Obama is getting the early votes.

    There are plenty of registered democrats, just like me, that have voted early. And we are making sure we vote early to support McCain. Most of the people I know are registered dems - and they have all also voted early. McCain/Palin!

    So.......you know what happens to the media when they "assume' things.

    All the "polls" be hanged. They are always biased. Let's get on with the REAL counting!

  • foetine Nov 3, 2008

    Charlotte isn't even in North Carolina. Half the people i know in "charlotte" live in South Carolina

  • billis Nov 3, 2008

    Bendal,

    That's right. We will spend the next 4 years tearing this guy down. Democrats have torn Bush down at every turn for the last eight years. It's too bad we won't have the majority of the media behind us to investigate every little step he makes. I am usually a pretty upbeat guy, but as of now I am at the end of my rope. NO candidate on either side will bring this country together. The other 47% will prepare for the next election and tolerate this president as he gives us all the things we dont' deserve and haven't worked for.

  • veekee Nov 3, 2008

    primedesign - she can still GO TO THE CHURCH and visit. They only can't stump from the pulpit. They can go up and talk but they can't say VOTE FOR THIS PERSON. She can even individually go around and shake hands and say vote for me, just the church can't be the ones to say that. It is common practice for politicians to go to churches. How about Supreme Court Justices preaching in churches? They do it!

    Her going to the church is not the same as the church influencing politics. If that were the case, no politicians could go to church. Your telling the whole word the code and telling me to look it up doesn't make your point any more correct

    Also - where are MANY polling places - churches!!

  • vote4changeASAP Nov 3, 2008

    veekee, the FACT is from the US Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3) which is for non-profits such as churches for tax exempt status. This classification prohibits these organizations from influencing any political campaigns for public office. Look it up.

  • neutral observer Nov 3, 2008

    Iam not voting for Obama because of his "economics" and national security plans. Race is not a factor. I just watched a video on U-TUBE, with Obama talking about "wasted" money on the defensive anti-missle system,(it works beautifully by the way) and he also mentioned "cutting back our military will ecourage other nations to follow." How naive can one become? On the economic seen, Obama can take every dime the 250k group has and makes and it would not put a dent into the cost of his plans. This man if backed by a democratic senate and congress will destroy America from within. We do not need another Havard or Yale attorney. The world is not a courtroom, where if you make the best agrument you win. The is an evil enity within mankind that will devour this nation inch by inch. We are in trying times and DO NOT NEED a naive, inexperienced man with grandious ideas leading this nation. That's why I DO NOT support OBAMA!

  • veekee Nov 3, 2008

    primedesignmaineanjou - I don't know where you got that little "fact" but if that were true no politician could go to church.

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