Election officials expect surge in early voting

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This recently sent mailer, from the Buncombe County Board of Elections, alerts voters to the start date for early voting.

Some WNC citizens were so intent on voting this year that they showed up at the polls prior to the start of early voting, according to several county election officials.

The window for early voting (also called one-stop voting), runs from Oct. 18, to Nov. 3. During that period, voters can both register and vote at the same time. Those who vote during the Nov. 6 general election must be pre-registered.

“We’ve got a lot of people coming in, thinking that early voting is already going on,” Joan Weeks, Swain County director of elections, said last week. “We tell them that one-stop is starting Oct. 18.”

During this election season, she said, “that’s been really the only thing we’ve had a lot of questions about.”

Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman, Jackson County director of elections, said she’d encountered similar eagerness and confusion. Potential voters “seem to be pretty well informed, other than about when they can vote,” she said. So far, she estimated, more than 100 people had come by her office seeking to vote early.

“They’re biting at the bit to vote,” she said.

Lovedahl-Lehman attributed the spike in extra-early turnout to aggressive get-out-the-vote campaigns and the rising use of early voting.

McDowell County’s director of elections, Kim Welborn, said she’d also witnessed an influx of premature voters.

“I think we’re going to be extremely busy,” she predicted. “The first few days (of early voting) are usually slow, but I don’t think it’s going to be slow this time.”

In Henderson County, director of elections Beverly Cunningham concurred.

“It’s always bigger during a presidential election,” she said. “But I expect this will be the largest election we’ve ever seen, numbers-wise.”

Early voting, which provides voters with substantially more choices for when to vote, has steadily climbed in popularity since it was introduced by the N.C. General Assembly in 1999. During the most recent presidential election, in 2008, 61 percent of N.C. voters opted to cast a ballot before general Election Day.

Many counties are opening multiple early voting sites, and voters can register and vote at any of their county’s sites during the specified dates. To locate a site in a given county, see this map prepared by the N.C. Board of Elections.

The election officials noted that there might be lingering confusion in some parts of WNC because of recent redistricting. Voters can see specifics about districts and polling locations, as well as sample ballots showing their choices, by entering their name at this N.C. Board of Elections site.


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Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the Investigations and Open Government Editor at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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