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Early Voting Data Looks (Mostly) Good for Clinton

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Early voting ends on Saturday. So, if you haven't already, put this paper down and go freaking vote like the fate of the Western liberal order depends on it (see our voting guide on page 21). If you've already done your civic duty, gather round the fireplace and join us for some early-voting tea leaf reading.

So far, it seems, the data is mostly good for North Carolina Democrats, who look to be in line for their best performance since 2008. On Sunday, the state's early voting tally surpassed 1.6 million accepted ballots, including both absentee and in-person voting. Catawba College professor Michael Bitzer found that, relative to the same point in 2012, the number of accepted ballots in-person ballots was up 10 percent.

The New York Times, which is running a daily North Carolina vote tracker, thinks this bodes well for Hillary Clinton, estimating that she's ahead by double digits among those who have already voted. As of Monday, the tracker estimates that Clinton will win the state by around 6 percentage points, which would all but ensure her the White House.

Despite Clinton's good showing and mostly positive (although narrowing) polls for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper, however, we have seen the effects of Republican efforts to curtail voting access. After the voter ID law was struck down in July, early voting was again expanded to seventeen days. But because all three-member county boards of elections have Republican majorities, the BOEs—via a coordinated effort by the state GOP—drew up early voting plans that, well, made it harder to vote.

That has most affected Guilford County, where early voting sites over the first seven days dropped from sixteen in 2012 to just one in 2016. The result? According to an NBC News analysis, early voting in Greensboro over the first seven days plummeted 85 percent from 2012. Lo and behold, once Guilford expanded to twenty-five early voting sites, early voting surged.

It's not just early voting obstacles that have been a problem for African-American voters. On Monday, the state NAACP filed a federal lawsuit seeking an immediate injunction to stop voter purges in Cumberland, Moore, and Beaufort counties. Plaintiff James Arthur was one of 138 voters whose registration had been challenged due to "undeliverable mass mailings." The reason mail to Arthur was undeliverable, the NAACP says, is because he moved to a nursing home within Beaufort County.

"If I knew my right to vote was in jeopardy, I would do whatever I could to protect it," Arthur said in a statement. "I want and plan to vote in the upcoming election, but I am concerned that, since my registration has been canceled, I will not be able to cast a ballot or it will not be counted."

All of that, plus a possible drop in voter enthusiasm, has led to a pretty disturbing statistic noted by Bitzer: white turnout is up 15 percent so far, but African-American turnout is down 15 percent. Although it's too early to tell whether or not it will stick, this is somewhat troubling.

"This is our Selma, and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue," the Reverend William J. Barber II, the state NAACP president, said in a statement.

triangulator@indyweek.com

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