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Campaign Volunteers In North Carolina Push To Turn Out More Voters

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

North Carolina is a key presidential swing state. Democrats think they can flip it because of its growing suburban population and large African American vote, but both parties are mounting intense get-out-the-vote efforts. NPR's Don Gonyea checks in.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Fifty-nine-year-old Linda Ippolito's day job is in international health care, but today she's a volunteer for the Wake County Democrats.

LINDA IPPOLITO: So we're going to go to the 2000 block of Nelson Street in Raleigh.

GONYEA: It's before dawn, and Ippolito uses an app on her phone to know which houses to hit. She starts by simply hanging bags of candidate information on doorknobs. Right on top is a sheet listing early voting hours and locations.

IPPOLITO: I have - since October 4, I've done 1,175 literature drops and canvassing at houses.

GONYEA: She says it helps her deal with the anxiety of the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

GONYEA: Once the sun comes up, she starts knocking and ringing doorbells. This morning it's a precinct with a lot of African American voters. We bump into 54-year-old Anthony Stevens outside his home. He says he's already cast his ballot. I ask who he voted for, and there's a long pause. Finally, he says...

ANTHONY STEVENS: I voted for Biden.

GONYEA: OK.

STEVENS: Joe Biden.

GONYEA: So you gave me a look when I asked that. Is that because it was a stupid question or because I was invading your privacy?

STEVENS: No, because that was a stupid question.

GONYEA: (Laughter).

STEVENS: No, I wouldn't vote for Trump, period.

GONYEA: Stevens says he always votes. Down the block, another neighbor is out early, raking his leaves. Ira Buie also has voted early for Joe Biden, but listen to the rest of his answer.

IRA BUIE: We need a person like him, I think.

GONYEA: He needs to do better in this state than Hillary Clinton did...

BUIE: Right.

GONYEA: ...Four years ago. Did you vote four years ago?

BUIE: Nope.

GONYEA: You didn't vote.

BUIE: No.

GONYEA: Buie explains that he didn't like Hillary Clinton, so he skipped the 2016 election. Democrats, they need such voters to come back if they're going to carry a state they narrowly lost last time. Democrats overwhelmingly win the African American vote, but it's all about the margins. Biden will hope to make the margin bigger than Clinton's while Republicans are hoping to peel off more Black voters. Yesterday there was a Black Voices for Trump event in Durham, where Housing Secretary Ben Carson mocked those who say they can't support Trump because of his tweets.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CARSON: Really? I mean, is that more important than what happens to your children and your grandchildren? I mean, to me, that's a no-brainer.

GONYEA: The crowd at the outdoor event was diverse but mostly white. There was talk of the courage it takes to stand up as an African American supporting the president. Sixty-two-year-old Tanzi Wallace is a military veteran who rejects Democratic claims that Trump is a racist. She says he's been good for Black families. As for the election...

TANZI WALLACE: Feels good. I'm ready. I'm ready for the run. What I'm seeing - grassroots and the attitudes of people changing - more people are informed. And I've got a lot of people I've worked with. They said, I didn't know that. I didn't know my history. There's fear when there's not knowledge.

GONYEA: She does think the election will be close, but she thinks Trump will win and that he'll make more gains with Black voters this time. Interest in the state is very high. Already, the total votes cast is nearly 80% of the total votes cast in the state four years ago. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Raleigh, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMMETT KAI SONG, "SUNDAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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