Determining the fate of the US presidency officially kicks off Friday. North Carolina is the first of 37 states and DC to open up advance balloting so voters can, as the AP puts it, "be done with the 2016 presidential race." North Carolinians can now send in absentee ballots by mail for any reason (they'll be able to cast their vote in person starting Oct. 20). Alabama will be next to follow suit, with ballots mailed out during the week of Sept. 15, per the Hill, and all 50 states will mail out ballots to service members and registered expatriates the week of Sept. 19. Meanwhile, in-person voting will get its start in Minnesota on Sept. 23.
Why early voting can be important, other than offering convenience for the voter: These types of ballots make up anywhere between 50% to 75% of the overall votes cast in certain battleground states, including North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. Plus, decent returns can provide momentum. "If one campaign does significantly better in harvesting early votes, that campaign will have a substantial advantage as Election Day approaches," Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center, tells the AP. A University of South Florida political scientist who follows early voting trends tells the Hill that more than a third of voters are expected to go the early route this year. (Check out the Hill for an early-voting calendar.)