The Federal Election Commission released an updated version of the 2016 presidential primary dates earlier today.

North Carolina is scheduled to hold its primaries Tuesday, March 15. Bordering states — Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — will hold their primaries a bit earlier.

Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia primaries are scheduled for Tuesday, March 1. South Carolina is set to hold Republican Party primaries Saturday, Feb. 20 and Democratic Party primaries Saturday, Feb. 27. 

With the election year underway, presidential hopefuls are looking to garner support in states with early primaries, such as Iowa and New Hampshire. The Iowa caucuses take place Monday, Feb. 1. while the New Hampshire primaries take place Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Kenneth Fernandez , Elon University assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon Poll, said New Hampshire and Iowa are early indicators of public opinion.

"Although New Hampshire and Iowa are not typical states, — they're generally not as ethnically diverse as say North Carolina or the average U.S. state — they are still important in that they're the first sort of gauge of the electoral process," Fernandez said.

While North Carolina primaries are a little more than two months away, political campaigning has been active in the Tar Heel state.

Previous candidates who have visited North Carolina in 2015 include Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), Rep. Ben Carson, Rep. Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Donald Trump.

Perhaps the most important events for local voters will take place next week in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Republican Party will host a presidential debate Thursday, Jan. 14 while the Democratic Party will host one Sunday, Jan. 17. 

"Debates can have a pretty important effect depending on if there seems to be a clear winner or a clear loser," Fernandez said. "That can really create a response from the electorate."


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