Nation & World

GOP turnout lagging in heavy N. Carolina early voting

Thursday's first day of early voting drew record numbers across North Carolina, election officials said, as more than 100,000 people turned out.

That exceeded the 2004 figure by about 40 percent, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

"We blew it away," Bartlett said Friday, encouraging other voters to take advantage of the early voting period before it ends on Nov. 1. "If not, it will be a long day on Election Day."

Mecklenburg County, where Chgarlotte is located, also set records, with an updated count showing more than 10,000 voting on the first day, and an additional 7,000 on Friday. Michael Dickerson, the county's elections director, suspects Friday's totals might have been higher if not for the rain.

Across the state, Democrats showed the most first-day enthusiasm. Of the nearly 114,000 first-day voters, 64 percent were Democrats, 21 percent Republicans and 15 percent unaffiliateds.

African American turnout was up significantly. Black voters, who make up about 22 percent of registered voters, were 36 percent of Thursday's early voters.

In 2004, blacks made up 18.6 percent of voters.

Experts estimate that Barack Obama needs a black turnout in North Carolina of between 22 percent to 23 percent to carry the state. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried North Carolina since Jimmy Carter in 1976.