By Michael Bitzer
A month ago, on July 13, I wrote a piece that North Carolina had nearly 70,000 requests for absentee by mail (ABM) ballots. Two weeks ago, I wrote an update that North Carolina's requests for ABM ballots would hit 100,000 sometime that week. Little did I realize that within two days of posting that, the requests did pass 100K. And as of today (Monday, August 10), we are working our way towards 200,000 requests (again, I'll say for fun) likely within the next week.
As of August 10, the total requests so far is 163,374, which is 70 percent of 2016's total requests (a little over 231,000) and 82 percent of the final ABM ballots that were submitted and accepted for ballots cast (a little under 200,000). In considering this number of total requests so far, North Carolina is currently 7 times ahead of the same day total requests in 2016.
As I do on the Twitter account for the blog in greater detail, I'll give the general trends, followed by a breakdown of an important voter characteristic, and then provide what could be a model for looking ahead to an important date of Friday, September 4, when the first batch of absentee by mail ballots are scheduled to be mailed to voters.
The Numbers So Far
With the NC State Board of Election report giving the number of requests by week, the following two graphs show since the beginning of 2020 the weekly totals and the cumulative weekly totals for the requests, with a comparison of what happened in 2016 during this same time period. As a note: we currently have 96 counties reporting, with Duplin, Hertford, Perquimans, and Tyrrell counties having not reported any requests for absentee by mail ballots. These four counties are rural, and are fairly small in their voter registration numbers and previous absentee by mail ballot submissions. So, these numbers may actually be low estimates of what is currently out there in voter requests.
First, the weekly totals since January 1:
In mid-May (week 21), North Carolina's 2020 total requests exceeded 2016's same week requests, and by early June (week 24), the weekly totals took off in comparison to four years ago that same week.
As we are about to finish week 32, we will likely see some additional numbers come in for this week and we'll start week 33. So far, week 31, which was the last week of July, had the greatest number of requests processed, at 32,000. Several counties are working through a backlog of processing; this past weekend, Wake County's Board of Elections set up a socially-distant operation to process their requests.
|Courtesy of Wake County Board of Elections Twitter|
The Surge is Partisan...And Unaffiliated
In the end, it's important to note that all party registrations are well ahead of where they were four years ago. But while registered Republicans are nearly four times ahead of their respective numbers from 2016 at this same time, registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters are nine times ahead.
So What Might This All Mean?
- 38 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans indicated a preference of voting by mail
- 37 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans indicated a preference of voting in-person early (in NC, it's called 'absentee one-stop')
- 25 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans indicated a preference of voting on Election Day