Surge of NC voters cast mail-in ballots ahead of 2022 midterms
The 2022 midterm election is still weeks away, but more than 22,550 North Carolina voters have already mailed or turned in absentee ballots to their local election offices.
That's more than 18 times the number of mail-in ballots turned in at this point in the 2018 election, according to state data.
The majority of mail-in ballots cast so far have been from registered Democrats — about 51%. Republicans have cast about 16% of returned ballots, and unaffiliated voters are responsible for about 32% of returned ballots.
The surge of mail-in ballots is really part of a trend that began with the 2020 election, said Karen Brinson Bell, director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
In 2020, many people opted to vote by mail because of fears related to COVID-19, Brinson Bell said. In addition, the state made it easier for people to request absentee ballots via an online portal — a feature that has remained.
"And our takeaway is people like that voting method," Brinson Bell said. "They like to know that they can vote from the comfort of their own home on whatever day they choose to, with their pajamas on even."
Any voter in North Carolina can vote by mail if they choose. They need only request a ballot from the state's online portal, and return the ballot with two witness signatures or one signature from a notary public.
Some counties have had to scramble to find paper and printers to keep up with the tidal wave of absentee ballot requests, Brinson Bell said, though no counties had yet experienced any major delays mailing ballots.
The deadline to request an absentee mail-in ballot is Nov. 1. Voters must return their completed ballots to their local elections office or to any early voting site.
Voters who prefer voting in person will have their chance on Oct. 20, when early voting sites open around the state. Election Day is Nov. 8.