CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The presidential election is just three months away and political scientists who study North Carolina politics say there’s new data that show trends on how North Carolinians plan to cast their voice this November.
According to Dr. Michael Bitzer, who runs the Old North State Politics blog, there have been more than 120,000 requests of absentee ballots in North Carolina already. Bitzer says that’s six times more than the amount requested at this time in North Carolina than in 2016.
“For some voters, they might want the safety of voting by mail, it’s also convenient,” Bitzer said.
Bitzer says it’s no question COVID-19 is having an effect on these numbers. He says the data is showing more registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters are requesting the absentee ballots, rather than the usual high numbers of Republicans who request the absentee ballots.
“I think most of us recognize that COVID-19 will have some kind of impact on voting, particulary this fall. I didn’t expect these kinds of numbers at this point in time,” Bitzer said.
Bitzer says that could be in part because Democrats are generally more concerned about the spread of the virus and Republican voters might be more concerned about the security of voter fraud.
Bitzer says though that voter fraud should not be a worry for voters.
“Some have expressed some concerns about whether the mail service being able to handle the crush of ballots and one of the advantages here in North Carolina is you can request an absentee by mail ballot but you can return it in person,” he says. “So you can go to an early voting site, physically hand it in or you can wait til election day and hand it in or hand it in at anytime to your county board of elections office.”
Voters in Mecklenburg County are planning to take advantage of the voting method they say makes them feel safer.
“There are going to be hundreds of people, there are going to be long lines,” said voter, Tom Cohen. “Some people don’t have the means to take off work, some don’t have the means to expose themselves.”
Tom Cohen says he’s at risk for the virus and works with cancer patients, so he’s choosing not to put himself at risk. He said he’s trying to encourage more people to look into absentee voting.
“Right now especially those, myself included, who don’t want to be exposed people, don’t want to put my family at risk, that we have that option. It’s my constitutional right to vote and I plan to do so,” he said.
You can find out more information about how to request an absentee ballot on this website.
The form to request an absentee ballot can be found here.