State Politics

Democrats jump to early voting lead in NC

Democrats in North Carolina are outpacing Republicans and independents in early voting.

Statewide figures through Monday show that Democrats made up nearly 50 percent of the 577,801 early votes cast through Monday.

They accounted for 47.7 percent of the total when early votes were combined with returned absentee ballots. Both figures outpace their registration: they make up 39.6 percent of the state’s total number of voters.

Analysts across the country are looking at North Carolina’s early voting as a possible forecast of what to expect from one of the nation’s key presidential battlegrounds.

In the last two presidential elections, Democrats won the early vote while Republicans won Election Day balloting in North Carolina. Democrat Barack Obama narrowly won the state in 2008 and narrowly lost it in 2012.

Republicans and independents, on the other hand, are so far under-performing in the early vote, according to figures from the State Board of Elections.

Republicans, who make up 30.1 percent of the state’s registered voters, made up 28 percent of the early and absentee vote.

Unaffiliated voters, who make up 29.8 percent of state voters, made up 23.9 percent of early and absentee voters.

Through Sunday, African-American voters statewide were slightly outperforming their registration numbers: 26.6 percent of early voters are black compared to a registration of 22.2 percent.

That compares to white voters, who made up 67.4 percent of the early vote through Sunday and account for 69.7 percent of the state’s registered voters.

Political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College tracks absentee ballots. He said both Democrats and Republicans are under-performing in comparison to four years ago while unaffiliated voters are over-performing.

Election officials expect around 55 percent of all voters to cast early ballots.

Taking nearly 56 percent of the early and absentee vote in 2008 helped Democrat Barack Obama to a 14,177-vote victory in the state.

Four years later, he won 53.6 percent of the early vote, but lost the state to Republican Mitt Romney by 92,000 votes.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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