With only three weeks until Election Day, it is still unclear if Democratic enthusiasm will translate into either a wave or just a ripple in a heavily gerrymandered North Carolina. However, as early voting opens at Duke and across North Carolina, the first hard evidence of Democratic strength is now materializing. 

The NC State Board of Elections releases the number of absentee ballot requests that come into their office each day leading up to the election. These numbers are not votes that have been cast (I’ll get to those in the coming weeks), but rather requests by individuals to receive a ballot for voting. Historically, the number of these absentee ballot requests have been a strong indicator of enthusiasm and a predictor of a party’s success on Election Day here in North Carolina. Most notably, in 2014, Republican strength on this indicator was a canary in the coal mine for the 10(R)-3(D) sweep they realized that November. This year, these absentee ballot requests signal significantly stronger odds for Democrats.  


Democrats’ best day this season far exceed Republicans’ best day up until this point in 2014. On October 1st, notably following the Kavanaugh-Ford Senate hearing, they racked up 3,446 ballot requests. At the same time, Republican requests have been coming in at around half their 2014 levels on average, and the supposed  “Kavanaugh Bump” has not actualized in this data. Both these lower levels of Republican ballot requests as compared to 2014, combined with the historic numbers achieved by Democrats, create the clearest evidence so far that the Democratic tide may make its way to North Carolina.  


What makes these numbers even more foreboding for Republicans is the geographic distribution of the Democratic lead. Instead of being concentrated in typically Democratic metropolitan areas, the Democratic lead in ballot requests spans suburban and rural regions, which makes historically Republican strongholds appear less secure. As of Tuesday, Democrats have more absentee requests in all 13 U.S. congressional districts of North Carolina. This early success across the state indicates that very few regions are safe from the surge. 

The strength of Democratic ballot requests is unprecedented in both its volume and geographic reach and may serve as the first concrete evidence for the still-speculative Blue Wave in North Carolina. But before either party celebrates victory or wallows in defeat, we must remember that absentee ballot requests are only one predictor. No votes have been cast and no seats have been won. The rules of the game here in North Carolina have changed. Egregious gerrymandering has subjected vote counts to twisted geography and has stolen the proportionality of power from the people. So while these ballot request numbers are historic, their strength as an indicator will be decided principally by your vote. As such, this week’s bit of statistical insight comes in the form of a request: vote.  

Luke is a Trinity senior. His column By The Numbers runs on alternate Thursdays.