Friday, October 14th is the voter registration deadline in North Carolina, with sign-ups increasing compared to last cycle.
"We're actually running ahead of where we were at this same point in 2018. then we had about 335,000 total registrations in that year. This year, we're a little under 400,000. So obviously people are interested and engaged," said Dr. Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.
At the top of the ticket is the Senate race, expected to be one of the closest in the country.
"Certainly top of the ballot races tend to drive voter interest and engagement. What was interesting was in 2018, we had what was called a Blue Moon election cycle. We had no US Senate race, we had no major statewide race, it was all basically attention at the US House race level, but even under that circumstance, we got 53% voter turnout, which was nine points higher than in 2014," Bitzer explained.
He anticipates voter turnout can get closer to 60%; the 2018 figure was the highest since 1990.
"This year, 50% of all the new registrants have gone unaffiliated. Unaffiliated voters are now the largest bloc of voters in the state," Bitzer noted.
Bitzer explained there was not an immediate bump in new registration following the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in June.
"We had almost 37,000 registrations in the month of July. Go back four years to 2018, we had a little under 38,000. So there was no significant difference," said Bitzer, who added generally voter registration interest typically picks up beginning in August.
Advocacy groups are spending the final week prior to the registration deadline working to sign up as many people as possible, with Bitzer noting those who register closer to Election Day are more likely to actually vote.
"There's a lot of key issues that are on the ballot that affect our community. Things like making healthcare more accessible and affordable, taking action against anti-Asian hate crimes, and investing better in public education," said Jimmy Patel-Nguyen, Communications Director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together.
Census data from 2010 to 2020 showed Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the state, though they face obstacles when it comes to voter access.
"In North Carolina, 78% of Asian American adults speak another language other than English at home. 32% say they have limited English proficiency. So you kind of get a sense of how important it is for candidates to meet voters where they are," said Patel-Nguyen.
It's why the group has engaged in phone banking, door knocking, and sending mailers in several different languages.
Elsewhere, the advocacy group You Can Vote has connected with students on 48 campuses statewide to ensure they are aware of their ability to participate.
"Incorrect voter registration forms happen to disenfranchise students disproportionately because of this confusion around residency and mailing address," said Executive Director Kate Fellman.
While turnout tends to be higher during general elections, Fellman said they are emphasizing the value of midterm elections, especially in races which don't draw as much attention.
"It's that much more important for an organization like ours to be connecting the dots for people between what they care about whether it's education, healthcare, civil rights, criminal justice, and then showing them all of those things are on your ballot," Fellman explained.
You can register to vote in-person at your local election office, online, or via mail; if you register via mail, it must be postmarked by October 14th. To check your voter registration status, click here.
Early voting runs from Thursday, October 20th to Saturday, November 5th. Same-day voter registration is available during early vote.