Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

Start of US presidenti­al elections

North Carolina kicks off voting by mail


MAIL balloting in the presidenti­al election began yesterday as North Carolina started sending out more than 600 000 ballots to voters — responding to a massive spike in requests that has played out across the US as voters look for a safer way to cast votes during the pandemic.

The 618 000 ballots requested in the initial wave in North Carolina were more than 16 times the number the state sent out at the same time four years ago. The requests came overwhelmi­ngly from Democratic and independen­t voters, a reflection of a new partisan divide over mail voting.

The North Carolina numbers were one more bit of evidence backing up what experts have been predicting for months: Worries about the virus are likely to push tens of millions of voters to vote by mail for the first time, transformi­ng the way the election is conducted and the vote is counted.

In 2016, just one-quarter of the electorate cast votes through the mail. This time, elections officials expect the majority of voters to do so. Wisconsin has received nearly 100 000 more requests than it did in 2016. In Florida, 3 347 960 people requested ballots in 2016. It has received 4 270 781 requests in this election.

While ballots go out in two weeks in other battlegrou­nds like Minnesota, Pennsylvan­ia and Wisconsin, all eyes are on North Carolina as it leads off.

The GOP has historical­ly dominated North Carolina mail voting, but this year the people asking for the ballots are not generally Republican­s. Democrats requested more than 326 000 ballots, and independen­ts 192 000, while only 92 000 were sought by Republican­s. Voters in the state can continue to request the ballots up until October 27.

The Democratic lead in mail ballots isn’t only in North Carolina. In Maine, 60% of requests for mail ballots have been made by Democrats and 22% by independen­ts. In Pennsylvan­ia, Democrats have requested nearly triple the number of absentee ballots as Republican­s. In Florida, where the GOP once dominated mail voting, 47.5% of requests have come from Democrats and 32% from Republican­s.

US President Donald Trump has derided mail-in ballots as vulnerable to fraud, although studies have debunked the notion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommende­d the mail ballots as a safer alternativ­e to in-person voting during the pandemic.

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