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Early voting numbers are up in Western North Carolina

Early Voting Franklin_cropped.jpg
Lilly Knoepp
Early voting is up in Western North Carolina including in Macon County. This picture was taken in Franklin.

Early voting for the 2022 midterm elections ended on Saturday. More than 2 million people have already cast their ballots in North Carolina.

Voter turnout in Western North Carolina has been higher than normal especially in the NC-11 congressional district, according to Chris Cooper, head of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University.

“NC-11 is the highest of any of the congressional districts in our state. We appear to be up a little bit over 2018 the same day,” Cooper told BPR on Friday. “So, in terms of overall turnout numbers, look, it's not going to be a record midterm by any stretch, but it is probably going to end up being higher than the last few midterms.”

Early voters headed to the polls for one-stop same day registration or sent in absentee ballots by mail. In 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people used mail-in ballots then ever before. Since then, sone voters continue to favor voting at the mailbox, said Cooper.

“We're running about twice as many mail ballots as we did in 2018, so about twice as many people statewide and here in Western North Carolina have cast their ballot using that new method. That's nothing like what we saw in 2020 in the height of the pandemic, but it's way higher than we've seen in any other year,” said Cooper. “So, it does appear that some people in 2020 tried mail voting and liked it and are continuing to use it.”

Chris Cooper
Turnout in Western North Carolina counties are among the top 20 in the state.

Turnout in six WNC counties is among the top 20 in the state: Transylvania(~33), Buncombe(~31), Henderson(~30), Macon(~29) and Haywood (~29).

So who is voting in the region? Cooper says so far, the majority of voters have been unaffiliated and older.

“Unaffiliated voters make up the plurality, so the largest group of registered voters here in NC 11, that's the only congressional district in the state where that's true,” said Cooper. He explained that in 2018, the average age of an early voter here in WNC and NC-11 was 59 years old. Right now, it’s 62 years old.

Men and women have been early voting at the same rate. That’s a disappointment for Democrats who were hoping that turn out for reproductive rights would be high – especially among women – after the roll back of Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

“The percentage of women and men who have cast ballots is about the same as 2018. So it doesn't appear that the Dobbs decision, at least thus far, has made a big change in terms of who's turning out to vote, at least in terms of early and mail-in voting,” said Cooper.

Absentee ballots will continue to be counted through Election Day.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.