As of Monday afternoon, there were more than 4.5 million early votes cast in North Carolina, nearly matching all votes cast in 2016.
With North Carolina set to greatly exceed its 2016 turnout by the end of Election Day, both campaigns are working hard to court people who have still not cast ballots.
"In North Carolina, Election Day tends to draw the youngest voters out," said Catawba College Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Bitzer.
Bitzer, who runs the popular site Old North State Politics, reports that is seen in early voting statistics where he notes "both Generation Z and millennials have 53 percent of their voters who could vote on Tuesday, while Boomers have a little over a quarter of their voters and Gen X with 37 percent of their cohort."
"Our generation is the largest and most-diverse group of potential voters in the country," said Emily Boone, a sophomore at NC State who works with NCPIRG, a non-partisan advocacy group aimed at engaging students in the electoral process.
Boone said they've had to adjust due to the pandemic.
"Make sure that students see our campaigns multiple times. That means we're doing class announcements, new student orientations, emails, social media," said Boone, who added they also are doing phone-banking through Election Day.
Another group of voters that can potentially sway the election: African Americans.
"Among Democrats, 50% of them who are eligible to show up on Tuesday are African Americans. Will we see that group that has been hesitant to vote by mail and particularly vote in person during early voting, will they show up on Election Day? I think that's the great unknown at this point," said Dr. Bitzer.
President Obama, the lone Democrat to win North Carolina over the past ten presidential elections, successfully engaged Black voters in 2008; despite losing the state to Mitt Romney in 2012, he still had the second-highest percent amongst Democrats in that period.
"We saw about 19% of all the early votes come from Black voters. Typically that is 21, 22, 23% of the early votes," said Bitzer, though he did acknowledge there is a sharp increase in "unidentified" voters this year, which could account for some of the discrepancy.
In 2016, President Trump won North Carolina by about 173,000 votes, building off Mitt Romney's victory in 2012, though the margin was still less than all third-party votes cast in the state. Bitzer believes that voter enthusiasm at the top of the ticket could assist down-ballot candidates.
"2016 we had two fairly unpopular top of the ticket candidates in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I think right now what is advantage for the Democrats is that Joe Biden's favorability is much higher than Hillary Clinton's was, and I think people will naturally tend to come back to their partisan leanings this year than they did in 2016," said Bitzer.
North Carolina isn't lacking in voter enthusiasm; according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida, nearly 1.3 million people who have voted early in North Carolina did not cast ballots in North Carolina, making up nearly 29% of all votes cast so far.
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