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North Carolina Starts Early Voting Program

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RALEIGH — In what some have dubbed a "no excuses" approach, North Carolinians now may take advantage of a new program that allows them to vote early.

Unlike the previous absentee balloting system, no reason is required for why a vote can not be cast on the official election day in November.

Other states that have implemented the early option report that it has boosted voting by as much as 20 percent. Officials are hopeful that North Carolina vote totals will increase in a similar manner.

According to theCenter for Voting and Democracy, voter turnout has been a downward trend over the last several elections. In November 1996, more than 95 million people found their way to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States. That figure is eight million fewer than in November 1992.

"Nowadays everyone works, and families are involved in sports or after-school projects. It is hard for people to work their schedules around it -- and so many people work 10- to 12-hour shifts, it's hard for them to get to the polls," according to Carolyn Thomas, director of the Orange County Board of Elections.

To vote early, residents are required to fill out an application and the information will be retained in a data base.

In Wake County, the Board of Elections office is one of the polling places.

Each county is designating its own spot -- and some have set up satellite locations as well.

Orange County has chosen to set up two satellite election spots, including one at Morehead Planetarium, intended to increase student voting.

Students typically do not come out in large numbers on election day. The Planetarium is on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

UNC student Matt Curtis welcomes the convenience.

"It's a lot closer for kids on campus. And especially with our hectic schedules it is going to make everybody really able to just go over and doing it whenever they want. Because especially being in college, things pop up at the last minute," Curtis said.

Good news is that voters have three weeks to find a moment to vote.