Local News

Election '96 Off and Running

Posted November 5, 1996 12:00 a.m. EST

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

Live team coverage of the day's voting and results will be aired on the noon, 5 pm, 5:30 and 6 p.m. WRAL-TV5 newscasts. Special election night reports will continue until final tallies are in. Then, at l0 on WB50 and at 11 on WRAL-TV5, there will be additional detailed coverage of the outcome 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/news for news updates. And special links connect to election areas.

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

There's been a lot of promotion for the KidsVoting project, whereby children go to the polling place with a parent and have a special area where they, too, can cast a ballot. The project is aimed at fostering civic interest and responsibility in youngsters. Although children have been accompanying their parents today, that is not thought to be contributing to the long lines.

School opening was delayed two hours in Wake County today, to enable children to participate in the KidsVoting project. The delay also lessened congestion in school parking lots, since many schools are also voting sites.

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

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

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

In the past, precinct officials labored several hours after polls closed -- at least to 9 p.m., often to midnight -- to tally and report totals 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 modems will transmit that precinct's results to headquarters. There, a central display will show the latest countywide tally. Final results may be completed 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.