Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at an early voting site located at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The stadium is typically the host for the Carolina Panthers, but it's one of many larger venues that opened up for early voting to help out during the pandemic. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Alvin Jacobs Jr.) Early Voting in NC
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at an early voting site located at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The stadium is typically the host for the Carolina Panthers, but it's one of many larger venues that opened up for early voting to help out during the pandemic. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Alvin Jacobs Jr.)

With 12 days remaining to Election Day, state data show a startling surge in absentee voting and early voting in North Carolina.

Y’all are doing it right, North Carolina. 

So far, more than one out of every three registered voters in North Carolina have already cast a ballot in the 2020 general election. 

The 2.5 million ballots cast at this point in the election season is unprecedented, according to data kept by the State Board of Elections, which releases daily tallies of the numbers of ballots cast at one-stop early voting sites and ballots sent in by mail (absentee ballots).

It also shatters what was seen during the 2016 election, where it wasn’t until Nov. 2 —just six days before the election— when this many votes had been cast. 

And these record-breaking numbers we’re seeing in 2020 are only going to go up, with 12 days left until the Nov. 3 election.  

Natalie Douglas with her son, Jonah.

Among those voting early was Natalie Douglas, a 27-year-old Charlotte mother who is also working to register and motivate young voters with NextGen North Carolina. 

Douglas took her son Jonah, 7, with her when she voted early on a break from his virtual schooling. They were joined by a neighbor and her child, and the trip to the polls became a real-life civics lesson for the two families. 

“It’s so powerful and we are able to fundamentally change the way our lives are going for the next four years,” Douglas said about the weight of the presidential elections. “Being a young person, I know that I’m taking a step for democracy.”

Pandemic Changes Voting Landscape 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the obvious reason why so many are voting early or sending in absentee ballots by mail. The threat of contracting the dangerous virus has many voters re-thinking how they planned on voting this year, whether it was to mail in an absentee ballot or visit an early voting site instead of voting in-person on Election Day. 

Nearly Three-quarters of North Carolina voters said they would mail in their ballots or vote early this year,  according to a Meredith College poll conducted in late September.

NextGen is expecting younger voters like Douglas to come out in record numbers. So far, 21% of the ballots cast in North Carolina have come from Generation Z and Millennials voters. 

Expect those numbers to rise, with younger voters more likely to vote in-person at early voting sites or on Election Day. 

So, it’s up to you, North Carolina to decide where the state stands in 2020. 

You’ve got plenty of options of how to vote, but only so much time left to vote. 

You can still request an absentee ballot be sent to your home here, or head out to an early voting site through Oct. 31 where you can both register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. 

And then there’s always Nov. 3, Election Day, where polls will be open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Go ahead and look up your polling place here

Whatever you do, just vote.