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They’re Off! US Presidential Election Begins As Ballots Sent Out To First Voters In North Carolina

© AP Photo / Gerry BroomePostal ballots are sent out to voters in North Carolina
Postal ballots are sent out to voters in North Carolina - Sputnik International
In 2016 only a quarter of voters in the presidential election cast their ballots by post but this time officials expect the number to be well over 50 percent. President Donald Trump has claimed mail-in voting is prone to abuse and has even tried to reduce funds for the US Postal Service.

The first mail-in ballots have been sent out to voters in North Carolina as the US presidential election officially gets under way.

Although election day is 3 November, more than half of all voters are expected to send their ballots in the mail this year as opposed to turning up in person at US polling stations.

​The massive uptick in demand - thought to be largely due to fears of catching the coronavirus at polling stations - has led to concerns about whether the US Postal Service can handle the extra work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended in-mail voting.

Traditionally mail-in voters in North Carolina - who in the past tended to be elderly - overwhelmingly voted Republican.

​But the majority of requests this year have come from voters who are planning to vote Democrat.

Trump supporters tend to be sceptical about mail-in voting and are more likely to want to put their choice in the ballot box in person.

Nona Flythe, 64, from Southport, North Carolina, said she planned to vote in person for Trump and the Republican candidate for Governor, Dan Forest.

Flythe told AP: "I just think I'm stuck in my ways. I've always done it that way, and I think if I socially distance and wear a mask that it's fine.''

On Wednesday, 2 September, President Trump called on his supporters in North Carolina to try to vote twice - once by mail and a second time in person to test the system's ability to combat voter fraud. 

​The executive director of North Carolina's board of elections, Karen Brinson Bell, warned that voting twice was a felony, as was trying to induce someone to vote twice.

On Friday, 4 September, around 618,000 ballots were sent out to voters in North Carolina - 16 times the number sent out four years ago.

Around 100,000 of the ballots come from Wake County - home of the state capital Raleigh - alone.

​Gary Sims, the director of the state’s Board of Elections said: "We're already at over three times the amount of requests that we've ever had in its entirety in an election. So that's caused us to change some of our business processes."

Voters in North Carolina have until 27 October to decide if they want a postal ballot, although officials say if they leave it that late they may not be able to send their votes back in time.

Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, told AP: “These numbers are astronomical, and on top of that there's these clear partisan differences. Even if the Democrats build up a huge lead in the early vote ballot, I still need to see the Election Day votes, because that's going to be that red wave.”

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