More than one million voters already have cast ballots in early voting in North Carolina, a total that’s nearly a quarter of all votes cast during the 2008 presidential election in the state.
In the first full week of voting Democrats cast more than 554,500 votes, Republican 298,400, and independents 197,300. Although the overall number of early voters has increased dramatically, Republicans have enjoyed the biggest gains on a percentage basis.
Early Republican voters are up 81 percent from four years ago, state Board of Elections data show. Democratic turnout has increased 32 percent, but on larger totals.
Walton Robinson, an N.C. Democratic Party spokesman, said Republicans realized the importance of campaigning locally this year.
“Now they’re trying to catch up,” he said.
Registered Republicans have cast 133,625 more votes this year than in the first week of 2008.
“I think this is another piece of evidence that it’s going to be real tough for the president to win (North Carolina),” said Matt Connelly, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “This is no 2008 by any means.”
Romney campaign officials say they have made five times more phone calls and knocked on 81 times more doors this year.
Republicans saw particularly strong gains in the Triangle, where their early voting numbers have increased nearly threefold in some counties, data show.
In Mecklenburg, nearly 25,000 Republicans voted early, up 95 percent. More than 60,000 Democrats turned out, up 61 percent.
In 2008, early voters gave President Barack Obama a 305,000-vote lead before Election Day in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,000 votes as more than 4.3 million people voted.
It’s likely he’ll enter this year’s Election Day with another sizeable lead.
Robinson credited increased Democratic turnout to a number of factors, including better information about early voting, an increase of Northern transplants to the state, and more minority voters. He also praised the campaign’s strong presence in North Carolina.
“After the president won in 2008, he didn’t pack up and go home,” Robinson said. “He stayed.”