RALEIGH — If you are a voter in North Carolina, the polls are open — at least if you want to take part in early or absentee voting. The first round absentee ballots have been sent out.

There were about 65,000 requests made for them, and 6,500 have already been returned. State election officials said this is a strong start.

“So the process is just starting,” said Gary Bartlett with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. “but at the moment if you compare 2008 mail absentee voting, for the beginning of the period, we are about 7 or 8 percent up on what we were in 2008.”

North Carolina was the first state in the nation to start mailing out absentee ballots. But it is the battle to be the first state in the nation to hold a presidential primary that has some political strategists concerned.

“I think it is ludicrous when you start running ads right before Christmas,” said Republican strategist Marc Rotterman.

Rotterman said as a strategist you have to pay attention to the fact there is voting as early as September, and make sure their message is out and clear by then.

But he said the election cycle has gotten too long for most voters to pay attention to.

“If we don’t fix the process, which I believe is broken,” said Rotterman, “I think you are going to have less voter participation…. (because) they are just tuning it out.”

Political observers said that may be more noticeable this year in a state like North Carolina because it is still getting used to being considered a swing state. This status means more attention, more ads, more campaigning.

“We have had this attention lavished on us,” said N.C. State political science professor Andrew Taylor, “and we are not used to it. And it happens to be in the election where more money will be spent than any other election in the past.”

Even if some potential voters may be turned off by all this attention, election officials said they still suspect it won’t be noticeable at the polls this fall.

“Every presidential election we have voted more people than the presidential election before,” said Bartlett.