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First 2020 ballots issued in North Carolina

First 2020 ballots issued in North Carolina
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The first ballots of the 2020 presidential election are headed to voters Friday as North Carolina elections officials begin processing what they expect to be a record number of absentee requests.

More than a half-million absentee ballots have already left elections offices en route to voters who have requested them, a spokesman for the North Carolina Board of Elections said.

More than 643,000 North Carolinians have requested ballots so far this year, and hundreds of thousands more are likely to do so in the 60 days remaining before November’s elections.

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That figure far exceeds the previous presidential contest: At this point in 2016, just 38,871 voters had asked for their absentee ballots.

State data shows Democratic voters are requesting ballots at more than three times the rate of Republican voters. Just over 337,000 registered Democrats have requested a ballot, compared with about 103,000 Republicans. Another 200,000 voters who are unaffiliated with either party have asked for mail-in ballots.

The first round of ballots are usually sent to members of the military, North Carolinians who are overseas or those who live somewhere in the rest of the country. Some of those overseas ballots are delivered via email and in previous years some of those who have received emailed ballots return them within hours.

Those sent by email are coded with security measures in a way that prevents multiple votes from being cast.

The global coronavirus pandemic has hastened the already steady move toward more voting by mail. The number of voters who cast ballots by mail has roughly doubled this century, from about 10 percent in the 2000 election to about 21 percent in 2016. More than 24 million people voted by mail in the 2016 elections, according to data compiled by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald.

That number is expected to explode this year.

Forty-four million voters in nine states and the District of Columbia will have their ballots automatically mailed to their homes. Another 118 million voters live in 34 states that, like North Carolina, allow no-excuse absentee voting.