ALBEMARLE — Although thousands of registered voters in Stanly County took to the polls Tuesday, many of others stayed home — not because they chose not to participate in the democratic process, but because they had already cast their votes.
Over 64% of Stanly County’s 42,000 registered voters — a total of 27,069 — cast ballots during the early voting cycle through polls and by mail.
All in all, it was nearly a 7,000-vote increase over the 20,078 ballots cast in the early voting period during the 2016 presidential election; the 3,263 mail-in ballots received were also a record number for the county.
“It was an amazing early voting turnout,” Kimberly Blackwelder, Stanly County Board of Elections director, told SCJ. “It’s great to see so many people getting involved in the voting process.”
As the early voting polls closed at 3 p.m. on Oct. 31, registered Republicans had cast 13,993 votes, while Democrats and unaffiliated voters cast 5,833 and 7,152, respectively.
Over the past three weeks, Stanly County’s election officials operated four different polling sites within the county: the Locust Town Center Joel Honeycutt Room, the New London Community Building, the Norwood Community Building and the Stanly County Board of Elections office.
Albemarle’s polling site accounted for 10,489 ballots, the most within the county. The Locust site had the second-most with 7,271 votes cast, while New London and Norwood respectively tallied 3,381 and 2,613 votes.
Nationwide, over 97 million Americans had cast ballots as of Monday evening, a figure that accounts for over two-thirds of the overall number of votes in the 2016 election.
In North Carolina, over 3.6 million in-person votes had been tallied statewide while the number of mail-in votes received reached 900,000, according to figures provided by the N.C. State Board of Elections on Sunday.
In 2016, 4,769,640 total ballots were cast by North Carolinians.
The board expressed that it hopes to have 97% of the total number of ballots counted by the end of Tuesday night. Unlike some other states, North Carolina voting guidelines have allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots as they arrive instead of on Election Day.
“Please remember that all results reported on election night are unofficial. We will post results as quickly as possible, but our primary objective will be accuracy more than speed,” state elections director Karen Brinson Bell wrote in an official statement Sunday. “State and county elections officials take many steps after every election to ensure all eligible votes are counted and the results are audited and accurate.”
While only 3,263 of Stanly County’s 27,069 early voting ballots were sent by mail, the number of mail-in ballots across the country heavily outweighs the number of in-person votes so far — 62.1 million compared to 35.5 million. According to North Carolina guidelines, the official deadline for mail-in ballots is set for Nov. 12 if the ballots are postmarked by Nov. 3.