Local Politics

Early voting on pace to shatter records in Wake, Durham

Posted October 23, 2020 8:18 p.m. EDT

— Since early voting began in North Carolina eight days ago, more than 2.1 million people have cast ballots in the upcoming elections.

Together with the 750,000 mailed absentee ballots that have been accepted, nearly 40 percent of North Carolina's 7.3 million registered voters have already cast ballots.

"We’re on pace to definitely break records here in early voting. The numbers have been very strong," said Derek Bowens, Durham County's elections director.

Durham County had 119,646 early, in-person voters in 2016, and it was already at 73,650 by the end of Thursday – with another nine days of early voting to go.

"We think the final week is going to be the largest week," Bowens said.

“I really don’t see it dropping off," agreed Gary Sims, Wake County's elections director.

Wake County has already seen more than 200,000 voters cast early, in-person ballots. Together with another 120,000 absentee ballots, Sims said overall voter turnout in the county is nearing 50 percent.

"It really is nice to see how everyone is spreading out their choices of how they're voting, be it absentee-by-mail, a combinations of early voting sites and, of course, I don’t know what Election Day will be looking like at this point," he said.

"I thought I was going to vote on Election Day, but I think we need to make an early statement about the results of this election,” voter Patrick Weis said.

Larry Langworthy said he and his wife wanted to vote early "to beat the crowds."

"It took, what, less than five minutes," Langworthy said.

"They kept us socially distanced. Everybody was friendly and encouraging, so it was good," Mary Langworthy said.

Because early voting sites in a county are open to all registered voters in that county, Durham and Wake counties offer online tools to estimate wait times at each site so voters can avoid long lines and head to another site to cast their ballots.

"We’ve been getting so many compliments on that," Sims said. "Our officials working at the early sites, they’re giving us good feedback. They’re telling us that people are telling them they went there because they saw a shorter wait."

"We’ve had more than 100,000 clicks on that, and it really helped us get people to locations that are traditionally underutilized," Bowens said.

The sites are updated at least once every hour, and the wait times are estimated by poll workers seeing how long it takes for the last person in line to get inside the polling place, officials said.

Early voting continues daily through 3 p.m. Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 3.

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