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Voters brave long lines to cast ballots early

Posted November 1, 2008

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— Thousands across the state lined up on Saturday to cast their ballots early.

More than 2.3 million people – 38 percent of registered voters – have cast an early ballot in North Carolina, as of Friday.

At least half of the state's 100 counties accepted early ballots until 5 p.m. Saturday. Gov. Mike Easley urged those election boards that planned to close early voting as originally scheduled at 1 p.m. to reconsider.

North Carolina's state elections board agreed Thursday to extend the early voting hours. Counties could close their polls at 1 p.m. if election commissioners from both parties agree.

The lines were long on Saturday - at least an hour wait time at most early voting sites in Guilford County around 4 p.m. At the Triangle Town Center mall in Wake County, the line looped around several buildings. At Independence Regional library in Charlotte, the wait was more than four hours.

Wake County voter Ardell Elerbe was trying to avoid longer lines on Election Day.

“Early voting is just an easy way to get out and vote and get ahead of the crowd before Nov. 4. If you get out early, you don’t have to worry about the longer lines,” Elerbe said.

In Wake County more than 228,000 people have voted since early voting began in mid-October, officials said.

“We still anticipate lines on Election Day, especially at peak periods, but we do not expect some extensively long lines,” Wake County elections office director Cherie Poucher said.

On Saturday candidates made a final push to win public support.
Charlotte Mayor and GOP candidate for governor Pat McCrory took to the air Saturday in a helicopter for a half-dozen events. Among the stops was Catawba College in Salisbury, where he earned a teaching degree in the 1970s.

McCrory told about 75 people outside the school's library that if elected, he would bring a mayor's point of view to the state capital.

"A mayor's attitude means we're going to have a governor who doesn't hide, but a governor that gets out in the state and sees what the problems are, and where we are going to find solutions," McCrory said.

McCrory is in a tight race with Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue to replace outgoing Gov. Mike Easley, who is barred by state law from seeking a third consecutive term. An Associated Press-GfK poll released earlier in the week said Perdue and McCrory were knotted at 44 percent of those surveyed, but 8 percent were undecided or named a candidate not on the ballot.

At Cawtaba, he again attacked Perdue for running ads saying he wanted to bring trash from New York and New Jersey to eastern North Carolina landfills. "She's trying to win the election by not telling the truth," he said.

Perdue planned to meet Saturday with voters at a pair of early voting stops, as did both candidates for U.S. Senate - Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan.

Hagan spent her day much like she's spent the last several months - greeting voters one-on-one. She toured polling sites in Raleigh throught the afternoon, introducing herself to many voters who have long been captivated by the presidential race and not the elections down the ballot.

"I've been doing this the whole election - letting people see me and hear my positions," Hagan said. "They can meet me and hear about the leadership I want to

Later Saturday, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will rally with supporters in Raleigh as she tries to offset Barack Obama's bid to become the first Democrat to win the state's 15 electoral votes since 1976.

Palin has become a consistent presence in North Carolina ever since polls showed that Obama was making headway in a state that President Bush won by 12 percentage points four years ago. The Illinois senator plans to visit the state again on Monday.

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