North Carolina


General State Info

  • Total # of Delegates: 15
  • Total Voting Eligible Population: 7,759,051
  • Governor: Democrat
  • State House: Republican
  • State Senate: Republican

State of the Race

RCP Polling Average (10/26 – 11/1): Trump 47.8% – Biden 47.6%

Cook Political Report Rating: Toss Up

FiveThirtyEight Forecast (11/3): Biden is “slightly favored” to win

Early Voting Key Facts

Early Vote & General FAQ

  • Likelihood North Carolina is the “tipping point state” in the 2020 election?
  • How has North Carolina voted in recent Presidential Elections?
    • In the last forty years, North Carolina has only been won by a democrat once. (Obama in 2008
  • What happened in the 2016 Presidential Election? 
  • Who won the early vote in 2016?
  • Is North Carolina well-equipped to handle the surge in mail-in ballots for the upcoming election?
    • North Carolina is well-equipped in some ways and poorly equipped in others. One major reason to be optimistic: their laws allow plenty of time to handle the surge in absentee ballots. However, NC lacks experience handling large quantities of mail-in ballots. In 2018 “only 3 percent of votes were cast by mail.” Thus, although they have the right procedures to allow them to count ballots well, we’ve seen states that previously did not have a robust by mail voting program in place before the pandemic struggle to adapt, so it is possible that NC may run into unforeseen problems due to their lack of experience.

Election Night Questions

  • Will there be a: Red Mirage, Blue Mirage, No Mirage?
    • The first returns will feature the early vote totals — both in person and mail ballots — that will lift Biden to an early lead. Then election day votes will be counted in subsequent tallies — these batches should favor Trump and level things out. Should the race be especially close, then the late arriving mail ballots that skew Biden could give the Vice President an edge. But in terms of most sizable vote shifts, look for that first early blue mirage to be followed by Trump surge as election day votes are counted.
  • Who will be ahead during the first return(s) on election night? Why?
    • According to the Washington Post: “Mail ballots cannot be counted until Election Day, but a heavy volume of early in-person votes this year means voters can expect to see more advanced results on election night, if everything goes according to plan. North Carolina expects to report results from early in-person votes and mail ballots cast before Election Day after all polls close statewide at 7:30 p.m. EST. Election Day votes will be counted last.
      • Per the NYT: Election Day votes are estimated to come in between 8:30 p.m.- 1 a.m. and election officials 98 % of ballots cast will be reported on election night.
    • Consequently, if North Carolina’s early voting pattern — in which Democrats hold advantages over Republicans in both early in-person and mail voting (significant adv.) — the initial returns should heavily favor Biden. This advantage will then decrease substantially when the election day vote (skewing heavily towards Trump) is counted. If North Carolina comes down to the wire, “late” arriving mail votes will give Biden a small lift and could be the difference.
  • Who will get more early votes?
    • We project that Democrats will far outpace Republicans in terms of early votes in North Carolina. See the current updated totals here.
  • Who will get more votes on election day?
    • President Trump will likely get more votes on election day.
  • Will North Carolina be able to call the race on election night?
    • President Trump won North Carolina by 3.66% in 2016 which, although much more substantial than other spotlight states, is still a somewhat narrow margin. However, we project that North Carolina will be a relatively fast counting state, so if one candidate has a substantial lead on election night then it may be possible to call the race.

Total Early Vote (in person + mail ballots) by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation1,381,17230.3
Data as of 11/2 Source:

Note: Graphic above (10/30) based on TargetSmart’s “Modeled” data which — party affiliation derived from internal TargetSmart modeling.

2020 Mail Voting Stats

Mail Ballots Requested by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation489,82933.7
Data as of 11/2 Source:

Mail Ballots Returned by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation316,43433.7
Data as of 11/2 Source:

Early In-Person Stats

In-Person Votes by Party Registration

No Party Affiliation1,064,73829.5
Data as of 11/2 Source:

Early Vote Comparison: 2016

2016 Early Vote
Total Early Vote (in person + by mail): 3,102,834
Mail in ballots sent/requested: 3,164,033
Mail in ballots returned: 155,374
Early in Person: 2,947,460
% Total Early Vote by Party Affiliation
Democrat — 41.7% (1,301,574)
Republican — 31.9% (996,272)
Independent/Other— 26.4% (825,360)