Jen Jones, spokesperson for Democracy NC, said the decrease in the state’s early voting locations for the first weekend could be responsible for the decline in total number of voters so far.
“We’re hopeful that there will be higher turnout when people have access to the polls,” she said. “In places like Guilford County, where only one option is available — and it’s downtown Greensboro where you have to pay to park — it’s really untenable for working folks and student voters to make it to the polls.”
Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the State Board of Elections, said more polling locations will open in those counties later this week.
“You may have seen reports that say there are less locations and hours than the 2012 election and that is wholly untrue,” he said. “The issue is that, because of a lawsuit and court decision, the hours are more compressed toward the end of the early voting period.”
In July, a federal appeals court struck down a law that limited early voting to 10 days in North Carolina and required voters to present identification at polling places.
Gannon said many counties had already scheduled their early voting locations and operation hours when the law was overturned, and due to the short notice some counties decided to offer limited sites and hours during the first week.
According to a press release from the State Board of Elections, there will be 78 more polling locations available this year than in 2012, and all locations will extend their hours.
The State Board of Elections report said registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans at the polls — casting 207,882 ballots compared to 102,199 ballots through Sunday.
Michael McDonald, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida and political analyst, said this difference in turnout is expected.
“Democrats vote at higher rates during in-person early voting,” he said. “So once in-person early voting started in North Carolina, the Democrats took the lead in the early vote.”
McDonald said a higher number of locations could impact the results seen from early voting.
“The big change that will happen is that the number of polling locations will increase,” he said. “Those are located in predominantly Democratic areas in the state, so one might expect that the volume of registered Democrats voting will increase more — relative to Republicans — once those additional polling locations are open.”