Local News

Election '96 Off and Running

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RALEIGH — Before the doors opened at 6:30 this morning, North Carolinians lined up outside polling places. Getting inside, theyfound themselves dealing with an usually lengthy ballot. Various issuesare sharing ballot space with candidates, and this year North Carolinianschoose their governor and U.S. senator as well as U.S. House members andstate and local officials.

Live team coverage of the day's voting and results will be aired on thenoon, 5 pm, 5:30 and 6 p.m. WRAL-TV5 newscasts. Special election nightreports will continue until final tallies are in. Then, at l0 on WB50 andat 11 on WRAL-TV5, there will be additional detailed coverage of theoutcome of national, state and local races.

WRAL OnLine will also have continuing reports during the day.Any computer tied to the World Wide Web can get to www.wral-tv.com/newsfor news updates. And special links connect to election areas.

The interest in the election seems fairly high. Most pollingplaces report long lines, some occasionally numbering a hundredor so people. Waits of up to 60 or 75 minutes are not uncommon.

There's been a lot of promotion for the KidsVoting project, wherebychildren go to the polling place with a parent and have a special areawhere they, too, can cast a ballot. The project is aimed atfostering civic interest and responsibility in youngsters. Althoughchildren have been accompanying their parents today, that is not thoughtto be contributing to the long lines.

School opening was delayed two hours in Wake County today, to enablechildren to participate in the KidsVoting project. The delay alsolessened congestion in school parking lots, since many schools are alsovoting sites.

At Fox Road Elementary School, people were lined up by 6:30 and theparking lot was filled with cars.

If past practice is any indicator, lines will be longest around thecommuting times. People who can vote in mid-morning or mid-afternoon arelikely to fare best when it comes to standing time.

Although the day's voting will last 13 hours, and that durationwon't change, Wake County has implemented new technology to speed the final results.

In the past, precinct officials labored several hours after pollsclosed -- at least to 9 p.m., often to midnight -- to tally and reporttotals to the local elections board.

This year, online modem connections will make everyone's job easier --and the wait shorter for candidates and their supporters.

At the close of balloting in each of Wake County's 124 precincts,officials will plug in special phone lines, hit a few buttons and modemswill transmit that precinct's results to headquarters. There, a centraldisplay will show the latest countywide tally. Final results may becompleted as early as 9 p.m.

Wake County first tested the new approach in May, for the primaries.This is the first general election in which Wake County has used modems.

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