RALEIGH — About 950,000 voters have cast ballots in North Carolina, according to data released Sunday that show an early Republican surge in voting has been matched at the polls among registered Democrats.
An Associated Press analysis of the state's voter database shows more than 15 percent of North Carolina's registered voters have made their selections. Early voting ended Saturday, and mail-in absentee ballots continue to arrive ahead of the election Tuesday.
About 46 percent of ballots cast have come from registered Democrats, while 36 percent are from registered Republicans. The advantage for Democrats has steadily widened since the first days of early voting began about two weeks ago, when Republicans were trailing by just a few percentage points.
The election will decide a U.S. Senate spot, all 13 of the state's congressional seats and the balance of power in the state legislature. Getting voters out in a midterm election year, without the offices of president and governor on the ballot, can be a challenge.
Andrew Whalen, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, said he believes the GOP had a small group of voters galvanized to hit the polls in the opening days but that the Democrats continued to mobilize as more polling sites opened.
"We withstood the Republican vote parade in the opening days," Whalen said. "Since then, we've continued to expand our leads."
Both parties seized a slightly larger share of early ballots than their overall share of voter registrations. Democrats are 45 percent of all registered voters, while Republicans make up 32 percent. Unaffiliated voters have voted less frequently, submitting 17 percent of votes so far even though they make up 24 percent of all registered voters.
State Republican Party spokesman Jordan Shaw said he doesn't necessarily put a lot of weight in the numbers of partisan turnout so far. He said some of the voters they targeted to get out early were Democrats who were leaning toward voting for the GOP, and he noted that Republicans performed better in early voting than years past.
"They have much less of a head start on us than they normally do," Shaw said. "That bodes well for us on Tuesday."
The heaviest voting so far has come in two of the state's closely watched congressional races. In the 11th District covering Western North Carolina, where Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler is trying to fend off Republican challenger Jeff Miller, more than 110,000 have already cast a ballot. The gap between parties in that race is narrow, with 41 percent of ballots coming from Republicans and 37 percent coming from Democrats.
In the 7th District, where Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre faces Republican hopeful Ilario Pantano, registered Democrats hold a nine-point edge.