More than 2 million North Carolinians have voted in-person since early voting began on October 15, the State Board of Elections announced Friday. Coupled with absentee ballot numbers, that means about 38 percent of registered voters—and 26 percent of the state population—have voted with a week left in early voting and 11 days until Election Day. 

More than 2 million North Carolina voters have cast a ballot during early voting!

Find more data here: #YourVoteCountsNC

— NCSBE (@NCSBE) October 23, 2020

In 2016, only 1.2 million ballots had been cast with this many days until the election. About 4.8 million people voted overall that year.

(FYI: The State Board of Elections website is a dream for data nerds. Aside from overall counts, the site lists numbers on votes by county, race, gender, and political affiliation.)

Here are some of the most interesting points:

Half of Chatham County Has Already Voted

On a county-to-county basis, the Triangle has been proactive in getting out the vote. In Chatham County, 51.2 percent of registered voters have already cast their ballots, giving it the best voter turnout in the area and in the state. Behind them is Durham County with 46.3 percent, then Orange with 45.4 percent. Combined, these counties account for just over 191,000 votes or 9 percent of votes cast statewide. 

Wake County lags behind the rest of the Triangle with a 39.6 percent voter turnout, but that figure is deceptive. It’s actually leading in vote count because its population outnumbers the other three counties combined. So far, Wake has had more than 310,000 votes cast—nearly 120,000 more than Chatham, Orange, and Durham counties.

The Triangle metro area is now the largest in the state—Wake County barely outnumbers Mecklenburg County by about 1,000 people, making it the biggest county in the state. With 1.112 million people, it has more residence than Chatham, Orange, and Durham combined.

Remote Parts of the State Show Low Voter Turnout, More Rejected Ballots

The rural eastern parts of North Carolina aren’t faring as well. Hyde County has the lowest voter turnout in the state, with only 15.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots thus far. This can likely be attributed to population distribution: most Hyde County residents live on Ocracoke, an island only accessible by ferry, but the county’s primary voting site is on the mainland in Swan Quarter. The polling place is only open on weekdays from 8-5 (except for a few hours on Halloween) and requires a nearly three-hour ferry ride from the island.

Ocracoke had a polling place at its fire department yesterday and today, allowing voters to be counted without losing a day to travel. Gerry Cohen, a Wake County Elections Board member and Duke adjunct instructor, says the island’s numbers from yesterday have not been reported to the state.

Other counties with low voter turnout are Robeson, Currituck, and Tyrell. Robeson, Tyrell, and Hyde are among the poorest counties in the state; Currituck, despite being relatively wealthy, also requires a visit to the mainland for early voting, which requires an hour-long drive when coming from Corolla or Knotts Island.

Robeson County also has the highest percentage of rejected mail-in ballots, according to research from the U.S. Elections Project; 5.6 percent of the county’s ballots have been rejected. In comparison, 1.3 percent of Durham County ballots have been rejected.

Statewide, Native American absentee ballots are more likely to be rejected than any other race, despite only making up 0.5% of the vote. This is followed by Black and Hispanic voters. Robeson County is home to the Lumbee tribe; 42 percent of its population is Native American, and minorities make up 70 percent of the population.

We Have A LOT of New Voters

Not only are more North Carolinians voting this year, but almost 2 million more people registered since the last election. The under 30 crowd makes up 42 percent of new registrants, according to Carolina Demography. The majority of new voters are registering in counties with military bases, colleges, and growing communities. Twenty-three percent of voters thus far did not vote in the 2016 general election.

There are eight days to go in early voting, and 11 days until Election Day (unless you’re Thom Tillis, who recently said it was November 11). You can check wait times for Durham and Wake Counties to see what polling places have the shortest waits. And if you’re still stuck on who to vote for, the INDY has an endorsement guide with commentary on every candidate we’ve selected, from the White House to the state’s district courts.

Follow Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño on Twitter or send an email to

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.