North Carolina’s governor race enters the homestretch after summer of coronavirus

North Carolina officially kicked off the general election on Friday as it became the first state to mail absentee ballots to voters. It’s a move that comes on the heels of the president, at a campaign stop last week, encouraging North Carolinians to vote by mail and vote in person.

According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, state law “makes it a Class I felony for a voter, ‘with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.'”

There are currently more than 7 million registered voters in North Carolina, with more than 400,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. And to date, the state has received more than 600,000 absentee ballot requests ahead of the general election, sixteen times as many as the 38,871 requests submitted at the same time in 2016. Democrats—with more than 300,000 absentee ballot requests—have three times as many as Republicans. 

The stakes are high in North Carolina this cycle. The 2020 CBS News Election Battleground tracker calls the state a toss- up for the presidential election and there’s also a competitive Senate race in the state that is crucial for Democrats’ ambitions to flip that chamber. 

NC Democratic Senate Candidate Deborah Ross Holds Election Night Event
North Carolina Democratic presumptive Governor elect Roy Cooper waves to a crowd at the North Carolina Democratic Watch Party as he walks on stage with his family on November 9, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Sara D. Davis / Getty Images

But in the era of coronavirus, when the responsibility of a governor has been elevated, and the gubernatorial race has many similarities to the presidential contest. Mr. Trump and Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest have pointed to a restless economy when talking about COVID-19, urging for businesses and schools to fully open. Joe Biden and incumbent Governor Roy Cooper have looked to medical expertise as the crux for their coronavirus response. 

Cooper has slowly loosened restrictions on businesses, in-person gatherings and schools. In June, he delayed the state’s reopening due to an uptick in coronavirus cases and later announced that face masks would be required in public. On Tuesday, Cooper announced the state was entering “Phase 2.5” and opening playgrounds and gyms at 30% percent capacity. Bars, movie theaters, and amusement parks remain closed.