Throngs of early voters overwhelm Wake polling sites

Posted October 26, 2016 4:34 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2016 6:31 p.m. EDT

— Twelve percent of the 6.8 million registered voters in North Carolina have already cast ballots in the first week of early voting.

Wake County opened nine polling places last Thursday, and they have been packed ever since. Four have seen more than 9,000 voters apiece, and more people cast ballots Tuesday than on the opening day, which is traditionally one of the busier times for early voting.

The turnout, which county elections officials called "anomalous," has led to much longer lines than some people expected.

"I've been here three times to vote, and the line was really long," said Marshall Thorpe, who was waiting outside the Lake Lynn Community Center on Wednesday. "So, I said, 'I'm going to go on and stand in line today.' I think voting's important. We need to do it."

The wait to vote was more than an hour at the north Raleigh polling site, and the parking lot was jammed. Many voters just parked along a half-mile stretch of Lynn Road and hiked up the hill to stand in line.

Hanna Planer drove back from Appalachian State University in Boone to cast her vote in Raleigh, where she's registered, and her grandmother warned her of long lines.

"She told me it would be about an hour or two hours, and I figured she just went at a bad time," Planer said. "I can't say I'm unimpressed, though. I'm happy. I'd rather there be longer lines with everyone voting than the opposite."

To date in Wake County, black voters are turning out for early voting at a high rate. They make up one out of five registered voters in the county but one out of every four early voters so far.

Women voters have an even bigger edge. They outnumber men in Wake County by about 15 percent, but their turnout in early voting so far is double that margin.

"What I want is the magic button that turns off all the ads as soon as I vote. You got one of those?" Kathy Auman said with a laugh as she waited in line.

Young voters, especially those under 25, aren't turning out as much.

Planer said many of her friends probably won't bother to vote.

"I don't think they understand that, whatever happens at this election, it's not like a one-time thing. It's going to be a continuation for the next four years of our life, you know?" Planer said.

Wake County elections officials will open 11 more early voting sites on Thursday, and all 20 will be open until Nov. 5.