Local Politics

N.C. early voting surpasses 1 million ballots

Posted October 26, 2008 6:22 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2008 8:10 p.m. EDT

— More than 1 million people have cast a ballot in North Carolina's early voting, surpassing the total number who voted at one-stop sites four years ago.

Data released Sunday by the State Board of Elections shows 1,078,710 have voted at early sites. In 2004, the state counted some 984,000 ballots during the full early period.

To help get even more people out to the polls, a early voting rally was held Sunday at the Chavis Community Center, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Raleigh. Free food and music was provided to the over 1,000 people who came out to the event.

"You have so many people who have never been involved in anything before who are deciding they want to be a part of something. And so this election gives that,” said Grady Bussey, organizer for the Chavis Community Center.

Elections leaders are encouraging people to take advantage of the one-stop sites, fearing that Election Day lines could be long. Wake County even expanded the number of early voting sites available to keep up with demand.

"One of the reasons we really wanted to open the number of sites is with the increased number of voters in Wake County. By early voting it's more convenient for the voters,” said Cherie Poucher, director of Wake County's elections.

The early voting process has drawn a few complaints, according to a recent WRAL News poll; eight out of 10 people think voters should be required to show identification at the polls.

“That's something for the legislature to consider. We just follow the election laws,” Poucher said when asked about an ID requirement.

Early voting started Oct. 16, and counties have been increasing the availability of one-stop sites since then, easing some of the hours-long lines seen in the opening days. The early balloting ends Saturday.

The numbers clearly favor Democrats. Of the early voters, 58 percent are registered Democrats, although the GOP argues that it can win over some of the conservative Democrats in the state that differ in ideology from their national counterparts. Just 25 percent of voters so far are registered Republicans.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has encouraged all his supporters to vote early to ensure that as many ballots are in before the crush of Election Day. The Republicans launched an early vote tour last week, helping ease a wide gap that the Democrats built in the first days of balloting.

Elections officials expect that some one-third of voters in North Carolina will go to the polls early. Already, more than 19 percent of registered voters have gone to one-stop sites.

“It's very exciting to have this many people exercising their right to vote," Poucher said.

The data also shows signs that Obama is drawing a historic number of blacks to the election. About 28 percent of all voters thus far are black, even though they're just 21 percent of the population and made up only 19 percent of state's overall 2004 vote.

Another 113,000 voters have cast an absentee ballot, including 4,700 in the military and 2,179 people overseas.