RALEIGH, N.C. (NewsNation Now) — Mail balloting was set to begin Friday in the presidential election as North Carolina starts sending out more than 600,000 ballots to voters — responding to a spike in requests that has played out across the country as voters look for safer way to cast ballots 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.
In 2016, just one-quarter of the electorate cast votes through the mail. This time, elections officials expect the majority of voters to use the method.
In North Carolina, Wake County, which includes the capital city of Raleigh, accounts for more than 100,000 absentee ballot requests so far.
On Thursday, workers in yellow vests and masks sat at folding tables spaced apart in a county warehouse, affixing address labels to envelopes and then putting the ballots inside. Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said that the pandemic presents new challenges for the workers including staying spaced out and using hand sanitizer as much as possible.
“We’re already at over three times the amount of requests that we’ve ever had in its entirety in an election. So that’s caused us to change some of our business processes,” Sims said.
Voters in the state can continue to request the ballots up until Oct. 27, though that may be too close to the Nov. 3 election for them to receive the ballot and return it to their local elections office in time.
Reporting by Bryan Anderson and Nicholas Riccardi for Associated Press. AP’s Sara Burnett in Chicago and Sarah Blake Morgan in Raleigh contributed to this report.