RALEIGH, N.C. — Thousands of North Carolina voters will have their say before Election Day.
North Carolina's One-Stop early voting program begins Thursday, allowing registered voters to cast their ballots at elections offices and other approved locations before the general election on Nov. 2.
Many area colleges used Thursday to encourage students to take part in the process. The convenience of early voting is key, especially with co-eds.
"I can get there, get back to class on time and avoid the rush completely," early voter Shawn Cunningham said.
North Carolina is part of a growing trend. More than 30 states offer some sort of early vote system. Despite its popularity, the extended voting period does not necessarily turn non-voters into voters.
N.C. Central University political science professor Jarvis Hall said early voting gives grassroots groups time to mobilize, but he cautions sometimes there are problems with casting your ballot before all the campaigning is done.
"When you vote early, it is possible something could happen. Some information could come to your attention and say, 'Oops, if I'd known that, I would've voted differently,'" he said.
With nearly half a million voter registration applications to sort out, Wake County's Board of Elections is about to get even a little busier with early voting.
"This has really been an active year when it comes to voter registrations. We set an all-time high," said Cherie Poucher, Wake County elections director.
"The more people that will exercise their right to vote early, the fewer lines we'll have on Election Day," she said.
According to estimates, there will be more people voting in North Carolina this year than ever before. That means polls will be packed on Election Day, especially in Wake County.
"We're going to have over 40,000 additional voters and the same number of precincts," Poucher said.
In 2000, 22,000 people voted early. This year, instead of three
early voting sites in Wake County
, there are 12.
Unlike on Election Day, voters do not have to vote in their precinct. They can go to any early voting site in their county.
"I don't think you can ever make it too easy," Poucher said. "As hard as we've been working here with registrations, it really makes it all worth it when all the new people we've registered, and all that have already registered, go out and vote."
For information on early voting in Johnston County
One-Stop early voting ends Oct. 30. The votes will not be counted until after the polls close on Nov. 2.