North Carolina residents are the first Americans to cast their ballots in early voting Friday.
Only 37 states allow early voting for any reason. Residents can submit mail-in ballots without an excuse starting Friday, and early voting at the polls will begin Oct 20 in the Tar Heel state.
“If one campaign does significantly better in harvesting early votes, that campaign will have a substantial advantage as election day approaches,” Reed College professor Paul Gronke told the Associated Press.
Absentee voters are expected to make up 50 to 75 percent of all ballots cast in the swing states of North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia, according to the Associated Press. Over 45 million people decided to vote absentee in the 2012 election, and that number is expected to rise in the 2016 election season.
Despite widespread access to mail-in ballots, Democratic strategists still say measures like voter IDs and limited polling hours keep minorities from voting. Strategist Mark Plotkin recently wrote in The Hill, “Republicans are intent on stopping minority voters from casting ballots in this year’s presidential election.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump led the most recent Suffolk University poll by three points in North Carolina, earning 44 percent to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 41 percent. Clinton still leads the Real Clear average by a slim .8 percent margin.
Statistics site 538 gives Trump a slight edge in the race, with a 50.4 percent chance of winning the state, and has the state listed as “leans Republican.” the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics currently lists the state as “leans Democrat,” signifying the race is far from safe.
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