Local Politics

Both parties seek advantage in rush of early voting

Posted October 19, 2012 5:47 a.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2012 9:56 a.m. EDT

— Democrats took the announcement that Mitt Romney's campaign would back off spending in North Carolina with a grain of salt Friday.

"I think this is a head fake. I think they are pretending to leave North Carolina," Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, told CNN. Woodhouse said the Romney move is a ploy to discourage potential Democratic voters.

After a record first day of early voting that saw more than 150,000 ballots cast statewide, both parties tried to spin the numbers in a positive light.

The Romney campaign announced Thursday it would move resources and key senior staff to other states, including chief North Carolina spokesman Robert Reid. A Romney campaign official says it's becoming more confident of a North Carolina win next month.

The most recent Gallup poll shows the Republican leading President Barack Obama by seven points, 52 percent to 45 percent, among likely voters. Other polls have the race in a dead heat with less than three weeks until Election Day.

"I think they have a small advantage in the most recent polls, Republican-leaning polls," Woodhouse said, but he believes North Carolina is far from a sure thing for Romney. 

Historically, early voting has favored Democrats, but observers say that may not be the case in 2012. "Republicans are not going to get steam-rolled like they did in 2008," said David McClennan, a political science professor at William Peace University. "Republicans learned from that. They are not going to let it happen again."

The majority of those who came out to vote on Thursday were registered Democrats, according to the State Board of Elections. Registration does not determine how any individual votes, however. 

ABout 47 percent of those who voted Thursday were registered Democrats and about 35 percent were registered Republicans. Unaffiliated and Libertarian voters made up the rest of the pool.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, agreed. 

"Democrats dominated early voting in 2008 ... (and) they barely beat us in 2008," he said. "I don't think the Democrats have the enthusiasm they did four years ago. We do," he told a crowd at North Carolina State University.

Romney staffers told WRAL News they have no intent to close any of the 24 campaign offices across the state, and they will continue to push voter participation.

More than 350 one-stop voting sites opened across North Carolina on Thursday, and scores more will open next week to give people opportunities to cast ballots before Election Day. In 2008, 55 percent of all ballots cast in the state came from early voting.

After one day of one-stop voting, 223,177 votes have been cast in North Carolina. That includes those mailed in from military and U.S. citizens outside the state and others who chose to vote via mail. The total makes up about 3.4 percent of registered voters in the state.

The State Board of Elections also tracks voters by gender, county and race.

The most populous counties – Wake, Mecklenburg and Guilford – saw the highest rate of voter turnout on Thursday. More than 17,000 people cast ballots in Wake County and more of them were women than men. 

While the overall turnout favored Democrats, 31 counties saw registered Republicans outnumber Democrats.