Raleigh, N.C. — Thanks to dozens of "get out the vote" rallies and a presidential race coming down to the wire, the early-voting period in North Carolina broke records on its final day Saturday.
In the 2½-week early voting period, more than 2.51 million North Carolina residents in 100 counties cast in-person ballots, breaking the record 2008 total of 2.41 million, according to State Board of Elections data.
Final early-vote totals were expected Monday.
State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett labeled voting "very heavy, very robust" Saturday with long lines before the early voting period ended at 1 p.m. in many counties and 5 p.m. elsewhere. Residents on Saturday could register and vote on the same day — that's not allowed on Election Day.
It was unclear if overall absentee voting — mail-in, military and overseas ballots included — would exceed the record non-Election Day turnout of 42 percent of registered voters in 2008. There are 400,000 more registered voters compared to 2008. Some mountain and coastal counties saw a drop-off in early-vote totals last week because of bad weather due to Hurricane Sandy, Bartlett said.
According to the State Board of Elections website, nearly 200,000 people had submitted absentee ballots by Saturday afternoon, bringing the grand total of votes cast in the early voting period to more than 2.7 million.
The total represents more than 40 percent of registered voters in North Carolina.
Both sides saw positives from early-vote totals — Democrats with an overall increase in voting by their base and Republicans in narrowing the advantage Democrats had on a percentage basis compared to four years ago, when Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes of 4.3 million votes cast. Polls show the presidential race very close again.
Nationally, more than 27 million people have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail or in person.
Election Day is Tuesday.