Over 800,000 ballots cast so far as early voting nears end

Although Election Day doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, already 832,448 ballots have been cast as of Thursday across North Carolina during the state’s early voting period. That represents about 13 percent of all registered voters.

According to the State Board of Elections, 49 percent of early voting ballots have been cast by Democrats, 31 percent by Republicans and 20 percent by unaffiliated voters.

Registered voters can cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county. Early voting locations can be found here. The early voting period ends Saturday at 1 p.m.

Early voting was reduced by a week under a law passed in 2013 by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly, but the same measure required counties to still offer the same overall number of early voting hours as seen in 2010, the last mid-term election.

There are 366 early voting sites in operation across North Carolina, according to state elections officials, offering a 69 percent increase in evening hours over 2010.

More: Visit NCVoterGuide.org for profiles on this year’s candidates.

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Hagan & Tillis running neck and neck in final days of election

A new poll finds Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan holding a one-point edge over Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis with early voting underway and Election Day fast approaching.

Commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters in Washington, D.C., and conducted Oct. 28-29 by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, the survey shows Hagan leading Tillis 47-46 percent, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 4 percent and 3 percent of voters undecided.

Neither Hagan nor Tillis are very popular among voters. Hagan has a net negative 3 percent favorability rating, while Tillis’ rating is a net negative 8 percent.

The numbers from PPP come on the same day that Elon University released a poll finding Hagan with a four-point lead over Tillis, reinforcing the intensely close nature of the race that some observers say could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

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Poll: Gender, income divide seen in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate contest

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is clinging to a four-point lead over Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis with less than a week left in this year’s election, according to new results from the Elon University Poll.

The survey finds Hagan ahead of Tillis, 45-41 percent – the same margin Elon found in September, signaling that for the immense amount of money being spent in the contest, there has been little movement in this race.

Among independent voters, 32 percent favor Hagan and 27 percent pick Tillis.

Tillis leads Hagan among male voters, 48-38 percent, while Hagan has the advantage among female voters, 52-34 percent. Single women overwhelmingly favor Hagan, 80-12 percent.

“Tillis has gained little ground with women as a sizable gender gap still remains between the two candidates,” said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon University Poll.

When it comes to income, Hagan has a lead over Tillis among voters making less than $75,000, while Tillis has the edge among voters making above that threshold. Hagan enjoys a 10-point lead among urban voters, while Tillis holds a two-point lead among rural voters.

In terms of age, Hagan’s strongest support is among voters age 18-30, where she has a 35-point lead. Meanwhile, Tillis’ greatest strength is among voters age 41-50, in which he has a 9-point edge.

In a unique finding, the Elon poll shows that Tillis has an 18-point advantage among voters with a strong Southern accent, while Hagan has a 26-point lead among voters with no Southern accent. Among voters with a “slight” Southern accent, the two candidates are essentially tied.

The statewide poll of 687 likely North Carolina voters was conducted Oct. 21-25 and has a margin of error of 3.74 percentage points.

Complete results from the Elon University Poll can be seen here.

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Most N.C. trial court races offer voters no choice

When it comes to this year’s judicial races in North Carolina, there is no shortage of contenders vying for the state’s two highest courts – including an eye-popping 19-candidate field running for just one seat on the N.C. Courts of Appeals.

But at the trial court level the view is quite different. Seventeen of 23 superior court contests and 85 of 117 district court races around the state feature just one candidate on the ballot, meaning three-quarters of those elections were effectively determined before a single vote was cast.

Unlike state legislative races – almost half of which are uncontested this year – the lack of competition in trial court elections has little, or nothing, to do with partisan politics and gerrymandered districts.

It is entirely possible that some of these unopposed trial court judges are so highly esteemed by their colleagues in the legal community that no one sees a reason to challenge their seat on the bench.

There may be alternate explanations, as well, including salary. The N.C. Constitution mandates that only the 20,000 or so duly licensed attorneys in the state can serve as judges. The average pay for lawyers in North Carolina is about $115,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the average compensation for district court judges is $109,000, according to the National Center for State Courts.

The median pay for superior court judges is a bit better at $124,000. But considering that these trial court judges have to stand for re-election every four years – instead of every eight as is the case for members of the N.C. Supreme Court and N.C. Court of Appeals – many potential judicial candidates may demur from throwing their hat into the ring and instead opt to remain in the relatively more stable and lucrative world of private practice.

An additional issue could be the cost of campaigning. While trial court races are typically less expensive than their statewide appellate-level counterparts, few if any judicial candidates relish the idea of raising campaign cash, which might be all the more difficult given the nonpartisan nature of the courts.

Whatever the reason, when North Carolina voters go to the polls this fall the vast majority of trial court races will have been decided for them.

NOTE:

Check out NCVoterGuide.org for profiles on most of the district court and superior court contenders in races where there are more than one candidate.

And the N.C. Bar Association has a handy judicial evaluation survey for trial court candidates.

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Poll: Hagan, Tillis tied going into final week of election

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis are locked in a dead heat with early voting underway and Election Day just over a week away, according to a new poll from High Point University.

The survey of likely voters and those who have already cast ballots finds Hagan and Tillis tied at 44 percent, with 5 percent favoring Libertarian Sean Haugh and another 5 percent undecided.

Neither Tillis nor Hagan have much crossover appeal among the opposing party. Just 9 percent of Democrats pick Tillis and only 8 percent of Republicans choose Hagan. Tillis leads Hagan among independent voters, 40-37 percent.

“We have been saying for a while that this Senate race would come down to the wire. These findings—taken together with the other recent polls—suggest the race remains extremely close,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science and the director of the HPU Poll.

Hagan has a net negative 10 percent job approval rating, compared to the net negative 13 percent rating for Tillis.

Meanwhile, Republicans have a five-point edge over Democrats when it comes to a generic congressional ballot, including a 17-point advantage among independent voters.

The survey also finds that 46 percent of voters would favor throwing out all incumbent members of Congress – including their own – versus 43 percent who say they would not toss them out.

A general sense of pessimism seems to permeate the electorate, as 67 percent of voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared to just 27 percent who feel the U.S. is on the right track.

The statewide poll of 862 voters was conducted Oct. 21-25 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

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