Local Politics

Thousands cast early ballots

Lines snaked outside polling places across Wake County Thursday on the first day of early voting.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Hundreds of people lined up Thursday morning to cast their ballots as early voting opened statewide, and voters kept streaming through polling places across the region all day.

More than 1,700 people voted at Cary Town Center by Thursday evening, and some waited in line for more than a half-hour to exercise their right to vote.

"I'm just excited about this election. I think we got some important issues, and I want to go ahead and get my vote in there," voter Jamie Powell said.

Four other early voting sites in Wake County also attracted crowds Thursday.

"Some of them I've talked to, there were up to 400 people in line when they opened at 10 o'clock," said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County elections office.

About 700 people had voted by noon at the elections office, and Poucher said 7,600 people had cast their ballots across the county by the end of the day.

"We had record-breaking turnout this year,” elections official Nicole Shumaker said.

People who aren't registered to vote can register and cast a ballot at any site in the one-stop process. Another 10 early voting sites will open across the county on Oct. 23.

Voters Derek Crump and Thomas Austin said they wanted to vote early to avoid long lines expected at the polls on Election Day.

"It's going to be a huge election and (will create) a big turnout," Crump said. "I wish they would (allow early voting) even earlier."

"I assume on (Nov. 4) the lines are going to be a lot longer," Austin said.

More than 6.1 million people are registered to vote in North Carolina, including 2.8 million Democrats, 2 million Republicans and 1.3 million independents.

Voter Chester Borden said he had heard the candidates debate the issues for weeks and didn't need to wait until Nov. 4 to cast his ballot.

"(I want) to avoid the rush while everything is fresh in my mind," Borden said.

Ernest Whonder waited 35 minutes to cast his vote.

“This is an unusual year,” he said.

Marvin McClain voted in downtown Raleigh, where the lines were not as long.

“Whatever happens, whoever becomes president, I know, I had something to do with it,” he said.

Poucher said about 100,000 people voted early in Wake County in 2004, and officials hope that number will more than double this year.

The only problems reported Thursday were at Cary Town Center and Triangle Town Center, where mall managers stopped people from handing out pamphlets on candidates, Poucher said. Managers said they don't want shoppers to be bothered by the electioneering.

A ballot box at Triangle Town Center also jammed Thursday, which slowed the process as officials switched to a back-up system.

In Durham, hundreds of North Carolina Central University students rallied at the campus brickyard Thursday morning before marching to an early voting site at the old Holy Cross Church on South Alston Avenue.

In Cumberland County, long lines weren't the only problems for voters, as some had trouble finding a parking spot near the polls.

A tiny lot outside the Board of Elections office wasn't nearly large enough to accommodate the number of people who wanted to cast ballots.

"There's parking around downtown. They just may have to walk to get here," county elections director Terri Robertson said. "We've done all we could do by blocking off our lot."

Construction at the county courthouse means parking across the street from the office also is limited.

"I'm done with it, and I'm glad and I can go home," said voter Sharon Lopez, who said she was lucky to find a nearby parking space.

"I waited and waited," voter Lewis McKoy said. "I was lucky to get in."

Early voting will continue through Nov. 1.


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