By Christopher Cooper
Election day in North Carolina is a bit of a misnomer. It's really more of an election deadline (and, like most deadlines, there are a few exceptions). For example, in 2020 the plurality of NC votes were not cast on election day, but rather through in person early voting (what we call Absentee One-Stop). The next most votes were cast by mail. And the smallest number were cast on election day.
So, what patterns are we seeing this thus far in North Carolina? As Michael Bitzer explained last week, we plan to give a relatively brief rundown on the mail and early vote in NC mid week through the end of early voting period.
For those who like their election-induced dopamine hits quicker, I encourage you to ignore the better angels of your nature and check Twitter. For North Carolina, Michael Bitzer, Gerry Cohen Andy Jackson and I post daily updates. For updates from multiple states, check Michael McDonald and John Couvillon.
Why Look at Mail Voting Data?
These data are important because they are our first look at actual voting behavior in the 2022 General Election. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can run better elections and how elections can give us a better sense of the will of the people. These can data help us do that in real time.
These data are not, however, useful in predicting the outcome of the election. If that's your goal, I encourage you to close this tab, and instead practice belomancy, myomancy, tyromancy, or any other equally helpful way to predict the future.
North Carolina sends our ballots out 60 days before the election. That's early. North Carolina is one of only 10 states send out ballots more than 45 days before the election. South Carolina, for example, will not send out ballots until 30 days before election day.
It's also worth noting that the data reported below (and next week, and the week after...) are not ballots accepted, but rather ballots accepted and processed. That may seems like a small point, but is highlights the critical fact that election administrators are doing this week. In a small county, for example, it could be that the person in charge of this processing is out for a day, or is delayed because their kid got strep throat. For that reason, expect to see some adjustments every day.
Last point of context: these ballots are *accepted* but not *counted* in North Carolina. We know who cast a vote and many of their demographic characteristics. We do not know who they voted for. No one does. We'll have to wait until election deadline (see what I did there?) to find out whether these votes were cast for one party or the other.
In 2016, Donald Trump garnered 59 percent of the Absentee-by-Mail vote; in 2020, his share of the ABM vote dropped to 30 percent. As a direct result, Trump performed better in one-stop and (Trump won 52 percent of the one-stop vote in 2020 and 47 percent in 2016) and election day voting (65 percent in 2020 v. 55 percent in 2016). Hyperpartisanship in 2020, it seems, was not just limited to vote choice, but also applied to the way a person votes.