RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – State election officials say they’re seeing significant interest around the midterm elections as some experts say this year could break a record when it comes to turnout. 

“We’re definitely going to get higher-than-normal turnout. I think it’s possible we’ll get record turnout,” said Chris Cooper, an expert on state politics at Western Carolina University.  

According to data from the N.C. State Board of Elections, North Carolina has seen an average of 43-percent turnout during midterm elections. In 2018, turnout was higher than normal at 53 percent. The record was set in 1990 when about 62 percent of voters cast their ballots. 

With the state seeing more than 75-percent voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election and higher-than-normal turnout in this year’s spring primary election, Cooper expects that to translate to greater participation in this year’s general election as well.

While requests to vote by mail are not as high as they were during the pandemic in 2020, they are significantly higher than in recent midterm elections. 

So far, about 168,000 voters have requested mail-in ballots compared to 65,000 who had done so at this point in 2018. 

Cooper said while that could be explained simply by more people choosing to utilize mail-in voting, he still expects overall turnout to be high for a midterm.  

“The mood is activated for Democrats and Republicans, and I expect to see people showing up to vote more than we would normally see in a midterm,” he said. “One of the biggest myths in American politics is that higher turnout is good for Democrats and bad for Republicans. It’s just not true. It turns out when people turn out to vote in greater numbers, they tend to be the same types of people.” 

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the NC State Board of Elections, said the election season is already “busy.” 

She said the agency is also trying to address safety concerns after a series of incidents. 

“We’ve seen an uptick in a hostile environment toward election workers both at the county office and then even toward our poll workers,” she said. 

This summer, the board adopted temporary rules aimed at addressing the issue. However, the North Carolina Rules Review Commission rejected that effort, questioning the need for the rules and the authority of the agency to issue them. 

Last week, the elections board issued new guidance aimed at “maintaining order at the polls” that addresses poll observers, voter intimidation, and other issues.

Karen Brinson Bell said the agency worked with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association and the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We want to make sure that we have safe voting environments for our workers, as well as, the voters,” she said.

The regular voter registration deadline is Friday. However, people can also register and vote the same day at polling sites during the early voting period which runs from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5.