Early voting grows in popularity
In the past 14 years, James Swain of High Point has gotten into the habit of early voting.
On Thursday morning, Swain was among the first people to cast ballots at the Washington Terrace Park early voting location, one of two in High Point along with Oak Hollow Mall. Early voting, known formally as one-stop absentee voting, continues through May 3 leading up to primary Election Day on May 6.
Swain told The High Point Enterprise that voting early cuts down on the pressure of having to head to the polls on Election Day itself.
“It makes it easier for senior citizens and working people. It’s a good thing for a lot of people,” he said.
Sandra Culmer, another High Point voter who was among the first to cast a ballot at Washington Terrace Park, said voting early fits with her schedule.
“I think there’s a need,” she said.
Since it was introduced in North Carolina in 2000, early voting has steadily grown in popularity. Even in years such as this one, in which there isn’t a presidential election, early voting has drawn greater percentages of people to the polls.
For example, 1,662 voters out of a total of 51,386, or 3 percent, voted early in Guilford County during the primary in 2002, the first nonpresidential election year for early voting. By the county’s 2010 primary — the last one in a nonpresidential election year — 4,736 voted early out of a total of 37,109, or 13 percent.
The popularity of early voting is more pronounced in general elections. In the fall of 2002 in Guilford County, 9,717 voted early out of a total of 128,444, or 7.5 percent. By the county’s 2010 general election, 45,144 voted early out of a total of 139,999, or 32 percent, according to Guilford County Board of Election figures.
Voters who want to cast a ballot early must do so at a polling place in the county where they are registered to vote. All one-stop absentee ballots are secured and not counted until after the polls close on Election Day itself.
This year marks two significant changes for early voting that were prompted by Republicans, who now control both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly and the state’s top elected office through GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
Early voting has been shortened by a week, now taking place during a two-week period instead of three. But the majority of counties still provide the same number of early voting hours by opening satellite voting locations earlier. Up until this year, the first week of early voting traditionally was reserved to a Board of Election office.
The other change is the elimination of same-day registration and voting during early voting. Starting this year, people who aren’t registered to vote can’t show up at a poll, register and cast a vote the same day. To vote during the primary season, someone would have had to register to vote by April 11.
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When and where you can vote early
Early voting, known formally as one-stop absentee voting, began Thursday. Here are locations and times for area early voting polls:
• High Point — Washington Terrace Park, 101 Gordon St., and Oak Hollow Mall, 921 Eastchester Drive. Two polls open from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. this Saturday; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. May 3. For more information, call High Point office of Guilford County Board of Elections, 641-7895.
• Randolph County — Closest poll location is Randolph Community Services Building, 213 Balfour Drive, Archdale. Poll opens from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. this Saturday and May 3. For more information, call Randolph County Board of Elections, 318-6900.
• Davidson County — Closest poll locations are Thomasville Library, 14 Randolph St., and Midway Fire Department, 228 Midway School Road. Both polls open from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on weekdays; no early voting this Saturday; 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. May 3. For more information, call the Davidson County Board of Elections, 242-2190.