It looks like a record number of Buncombe County residents will participate in early voting this year.
More than 53,886 votes have already been cast since polls opened Oct. 18. at select sites throughout the county. At this point in 2008, 47,072 ballots were cast, according to figures compiled by the Civitas Institute, a conservative state advocacy organization.
So far, registered Democrats have been turning out in much larger numbers in Buncombe County than Republicans.
As of Oct. 29, Democrats cast 25,986 ballots in the county compared to 14,387 for Republicans and 14,392 for unaffiliated voters, according to Civitas.
However, that represents a significant improvement for Republican early voter turnout over four years ago, when 10,736 GOP voters cast ballots eight days before election day. The early numbers for Democrats this year are only slightly higher than they were 2008, when they cast 25,475 votes eight days out.
The local trends mirror statewide early voting numbers, which show Democrats participating in much higher numbers overall, but have Republicans making bigger gains over their turnout from four years ago, according to Civitas.
About 42 percent of Buncombe County’s roughly 186,100 registered voters are Democrats. Registered Republicans make up about 26 percent of the county’s total. Unaffiliated voters account for about 32 percent, according to Civitas. The average age of county residents participating in early voting so far is 56, a couple of years older than the state average, according to the organization.
Early voting is open through Nov. 3. The general election day is set for Nov. 6, when many more voting sites will be open throughout the county and state.