The number of early voters continues to trump the 2008 election with increases across the board among Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Catawba College's political expert Michael Bitzer breaks down the numbers:
On the first day of early voting, more than 49,000 more votes were cast this year than in 2008, and the three subsequent days also saw more votes cast than on the same days four years ago: by 40,000, 24,000, and 8,600 respectively.
In looking deeper into these ballots cast, though, we can also see some partisan patterns emerging that could give an indication that the Democratic ground-game is back in full operation this year. ...
While all three groups of voters are above their 2008 trend lines, Democrats had impressive numbers in the first four days of early voting.
With that being said, a major qualifier must be made at this point: not all North Carolina registered Democrats will vote Democratic. Granted, we know from exit poll data going back several presidential elections that self-identified partisans will typically vote 90% of the time for their party's candidate, but in the Tar Heel state, it is likely that some registered Democrats--who are older, white, conservative, and rural--are actually Republican voters.
So, while the numbers look good for Democrats, a major caveat has to be warned in reading into how these voters may be selecting their presidential candidate.
One other facet of early voters could be the racial composition. In 2008, black registered voters made up 22% of the entire electorate, but that combines both early voting and Election Day voting. Among early voters, black voters were 29% of all the early votes cast, with white voters being 67% of all the ballots cast in early voting.
In the first four days of early voting, black voters are 35% of the early votes cast and are building on their numbers from four years ago; white voters are down to 60% of the votes cast. All other races--Asian, Native American, and others--are 5% of the votes cast so far; in comparison, they were only 1% of the early votes cast in 2008. ...
Just a reminder: in 2008, we had 4.3 million votes cast in the North Carolina presidential election, with 58% of those votes coming before Election Day. While I'm not sure we will see a repeat of that 4.3 million total votes cast, I may be rethinking that due to the numbers of early votes we are seeing in just the first four days.