Early voting starts Thursday across North Carolina in an election headlined by one of the nation’s most-watched U.S. Senate races.
This year’s early voting reflects two changes that were part of the sweeping voter bill passed by the General Assembly last year. It will be a week shorter than it was two years ago and new voters can no longer register and vote the same day.
Starting Thursday voters can cast early ballots through Nov. 1.
Even with the shorter voting period, lawmakers required early election hours to be the same this year as they were in 2010, the last off-year election.
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That year 44 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters went to the polls. And a third of all 2010 voters voted early.
With the Senate race and competitive local races driving turnout, requests for absentee ballots are up, at least in Mecklenburg County.
Early voting has become a popular tool for both major parties.
“Traditionally early voting makes up almost 40 percent of the vote in a mid-term. So this a crucial part of our get-out-the-vote efforts, and taking advantage of every opportunity is important,” said William Allison, a spokesman for the state GOP. “As North Carolinians hear more about Sen. Hagan’s record of failed leadership, the enthusiasm from our voters only grows.”
Democrats hope to make it work for them.
“Large parts of the Democrat coalition took the opportunity to vote early in 2008, 2010 and 2012, and I think that’s why Republicans … made it so darn hard,” said Ben Ray, a Democratic spokesman. “Unfortunately for them, it’s highly motivating to voters to hear that somebody wants them to stay home.”