North Carolina's early voting data shows higher turnout than 2018 midterms

As the last day of early voting ended in North Carolina on Saturday, voter turnout numbers recorded higher than in the 2018 midterm elections. Early voting lasted 17 days, from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5. 

Who’s voting?

Approximately 2.1 million people have voted in North Carolina through Nov. 5­­, amounting to about 29% of North Carolina's 7.4 million registered voters, according to data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections. This count is higher than the turnout in 2018, which was close to 1.9 million voters after early voting concluded. 

The distribution across parties is fairly equal, with Democratic percentage numbers only slightly higher than Republicans at 32.76%, Republicans at 30.25% and unaffiliated voters at 24.60%.

“The one [trend] that is most noticeable to me is the relative lack of youth votes compared to 2018,” said Mac McCorkle, Law School ’84 and professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy. 

A poll from Meredith College conducted on North Carolina’s registered voters on Oct. 27-30 found that older voters were more likely to respond "very likely" to vote, while voters who are 18-24 years old were more likely to respond "somewhat likely." 

“Although young voters don’t indicate the same likelihood of voting, compared to Gen X, Baby Boomer, and Silent Generation voters, if turnout of the youngest cohort of voters exceeds 40 percent this year, that could be historic," said Poll Director David McLennan in the report. 

Other demographics of early voters are fairly similar to those from 2018.

According to Christopher Cooper, Robert Lee Madison distinguished professor of political science and public affairs at Western Carolina University, Sunday on Twitter, the average age of the early voter is 58 years old, compared to 56 in 2018. Additionally, 72% of this year’s early voters are white and 19% are Black, compared to 71% and 22%, respectively, in 2018.

Why the high turnout this year?

A number of reasons can account for higher voter rates — legislation that could change the future of abortion access in North Carolina, the balance of power in the North Carolina government or national mobilization sentiments.

The Meredith poll found that 87% of respondents indicated they would be likely to vote in the midterm elections. 

“The high percentage of voters indicating that they were very likely to vote suggests we may exceed the voter turnout in 2018,” McLennan said in the report. 

One reason for this could be dissatisfaction with the nation’s leadership. The Meredith poll found that over 70% of respondents were dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

Additionally, voting results in North Carolina have the potential to impact issues that energize many voters. One such legislation is abortion. North Carolina has yet to enact legislation that would ban abortion following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, a supermajority in the NC General Assembly would give Republican lawmakers the power to pass an abortion ban.

But whether this could mobilize certain demographics is uncertain. According to Cooper, women this year voted early at lower rates than they did in 2018, with early female voters at 52% compared to 54% in 2018. 

The balance of power in the North Carolina General Assembly and Supreme Court is also impacted by this election. Republicans are five seats shy — three in the state House of Representatives and two in the state Senate — of gaining a supermajority in the state legislature, which would give Republicans the ability to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. 

What do numbers tell us?

The number gives insights into the portion of voters who have made their way to the polls already, but doesn’t include those who will cast their ballots on Nov. 8. 

While early voting data can give insight into who is and isn’t voting and predict larger trends, McCorkle warned against fully relying on polls.

“It's hard to still draw conclusions,” McCorkle said.

Jothi Gupta profile
Jothi Gupta | University News Editor

Jothi Gupta is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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