Senate race drives early voting turnout

Posted November 2, 2014

Early voters line up in Cary on Oct. 31, 2014.

— A steady stream of voters queued up for a chance to vote Friday morning at the Wake County Board of Elections office on Salisbury Street, reflecting turnout figures that show more than 1.1 million North Carolina voters cast their ballots before Election Day. 

"My work is threatening to send me on a business trip next week," said Oakley Julian, who does tech support.

She and her fiance, Jesse Bentley, voted together Friday morning. The couple moved to Raleigh from Maryland, where Bentley has consistently used early voting.

"It's more convenient," he said. 

More North Carolina voters like Julian and Bentley than ever before turned out during the early-voting period. Roughly 17.5 percent of all registered voters have already cast their ballots.

Saturday was the last day of early voting and saw a rush at many polling places, including in Wake County where it took some voters who lined up by 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. to cast their ballots. Statewide, 106,651 voters cast an early in-person ballot on Saturday. Of those, State Board of Election data analyzed by WRAL show 10,361 voted in Wake County. 

Both Republican and Democratic political operatives are claiming that the turnout figures bode well for their chances on Election Day.  

2014 early voting in North Carolina

Percent of registered voters
who cast early ballots

0 to 0.079
0.079 to 0.165
0.165 to 0.252
0.252 to 0.338
0.338 to 0.424

Click on a county for early vote details, including the number of Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters who cast ballots through Nov. 1. Registered voters reflects the total number of voters eligible to vote as of Oct. 10. The "% early voters" line reflects the percentage of those registered voters who cast early ballots. 
Source: N.C. State Board of Elections

"We're on a pace right now we're very happy with," said Preston Elliott, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's campaign manager.

Hagan, a Democrat, is locked in a close general election battle with Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. 

Elliot said that both overall turnout and turnout in key Democratic strongholds has been encouraging, as well as who is showing up. The electorate, he said, is more diverse than in in prior years. 

"A big chunk of those are voters that didn't vote in 2010 that are voting now," Elliott said, crediting Democratic turnout operations with pushing voters to the polls who might have otherwise stayed home.

But Republicans say they're seeing exactly what they expected. 

"There have been a lot of people voting in rural areas, and those are usually Republican strongholds," said William Allison, a spokesman for the North Carolina Republican Party. 

Although Democrats have had an edge in the percentage of early voters who turned out, that lead has shrunk throughout the early-voting period. 

"We feel like we're on track to win," Allison said. 

There's a limit to how much early-voting numbers can say about the election. For one thing, there is a strain of conservative Democrats who typically vote for Republicans in national elections, said Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer.

So, even though Democrats are casting a higher proportion of the early votes compared with their share of overall voter registration, he said, "we have to take that Democratic number with a gain of salt."

Also, roughly 19 percent of those who have voted early were unaffiliated voters. That's unusual because unaffiliated voters typically have much-depressed turnout numbers in midterm elections. The 19 percent number is close to what Bitzer said he would expect to see during a presidential election. 

One thing remains very consistent from prior midterm elections: Older voters continue to make up the bulk of this year's early voters. Roughly three-quarters of those who voted early are over the age of 50. 

Asked why he was voting early on Friday, Stephan Kiefer of Raleigh said that he wanted to make sure his civic duty didn't interfere with his obligations as a grandparent.

"Tuesday, I'm going to be babysitting grandchildren," he said. 

Number of early voters by age


This chart shows the the number of voters who cast early votes according to how old they are.  
Source: N.C. State Board of Elections.


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  • Eq Videri Nov 3, 2014
    user avatar

    A Republican friend of mine voted for Libertarian Sean Haugh because of Thom Tillis's ridiculous, mean-spirited opposition to marriage equality.

    My friend couldn't bring himself to vote for Kay Hagan, but he wanted to send the GOP a message: put personal freedom ahead of Bible-thumping.

    Tillis gambled by campaigning as if it's 2004, not almost 2016. Tomorrow we'll see whether it worked for Tilllis and the GOP.

  • miseem Nov 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    And what, exactly, do you expect the GOP to do to improve the lives of the poor and middle class in this country? Make the rich and corporations richer so they can create more jobs? That doesn't seem to be working. Outlaw global warming? NC tried that, but it doesn't seem to be working. Of course, it has not been tried on a national scale. Yet. And who would not give up clean water for a little cheaper electric rate? Except the GOP raised sales tax on electricity and kept the door open for Duke Power to hit consumers with their clean up costs. And even though voting numbers are up, think how many more could have legally voted if the GOP did not keep putting up barriers to legal voting. While lowering barriers to practices more likely to result in illegal voting. So the GOP has not exactly done anything to help the people that actually do the work in this country.

  • Grand Union Nov 3, 2014

    "You obviously missed my point. The doom sayers wanted us to believe that the changes in the voting law would reduce early voting. That didn't happen.
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=14132320#946zb1DtRUfwpMwk.99"

    No we said it was "designed to reduce early voting".........and it was...........however there has been so much publicity about the change that it generated a backlash that has had the opposite effect. And its likely given Hagan the win........ironic or what :)

  • Grand Union Nov 3, 2014

    ""State officials say a stimulus grant given to a company run by Kay Hagan's husband needs "further legal review.""
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/share/page/1896337/?id=14132320#r3MzIBHGI35SWK3I.99"

    Since the State Gov is run by the Tea Party GOP why would you think they are unbiased here......

  • Atheistinafoxhole Nov 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Jealous of the size of my "EBT card" are you?

    Enjoy the slow slide into the dustbin of history along with the regional minority party the GOP is becoming.

  • jurydoc Nov 3, 2014

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    Interesting. NC doesn't HAVE a "Department of Energy and Natural Resources." NC DENR stands for NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Hmmmm. Consider the source of your "blog" quote.

  • notexactly Nov 3, 2014

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    Yes and that just proves that there are many uninformed voters for dems. You are funny. Plus maybe it is the majority of Obama followers are tired of being lied to over and over and now are going to send the dems packing like they should. You on the other hand don't have an issue with being lied to since you keep praising the worst pack of liars ever. Go ahead and vote for them again, maybe they will make you EBT card larger.

  • notexactly Nov 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Amen friend ! amen.

  • Atheistinafoxhole Nov 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Actually, when you consider that the "average" voter turnout rate for the US is around 48% (sadly), it is not hard to see that there can be large variances among "registered" voter turnout depending on motivating factors. It is just a sad fact that in our country, many people simply ignore their right to vote. This does not mean, conversely, that there are no instances of "voter suppression" and it is impossible to quantify how many may be disenfranchised without a much larger data set (not yet available).

  • Danny22 Nov 3, 2014

    It's funny. the dems have been screaming voter suppression for years. See how uninformed they are and how they manipulate their issues.