By Joe DeMartin ’21 (he/him), Senior Political Correspondent
North Carolina and Mecklenburg County have seen massive increases in voter turnout during the past two weeks of Early Voting.
As of 5:00 am on Wednesday, October 28th, over 3.6 million ballots have been cast in North Carolina. Of these, about 2.8 million people have voted early in-person, while about 800,000 voted by mail. For comparison, in 2016, by this same time in Early Voting, 40 percent fewer votes had been cast. In fact, these current Early Voting totals represent a whopping 76 percent of the total votes cast in the 2016 election. What’s more, according to the State Board of Elections, almost 25 percent of those who have already voted early for the 2020 election did not vote in the 2016 election.
In Mecklenburg County specifically, 371,933 people have voted early or by mail. Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Director, Michael Dickerson, believes at this point that Early Voting turnout in the county will surpass the total vote in 2016. He expects about 90,000 more people to vote early in the county.
If you want to vote early, there are several ways to do so.
Max Dominguez ‘22 (he/him) is originally from Chicago, but he registered to vote in North Carolina during his freshman year at Davidson for the 2018 midterms. He voted early in-person at Cornelius Town Hall last week. He planned in advance how he was going to vote; he “was paying attention to the COVID atmosphere” in and around Davidson and “felt comfortable going to vote early in-person” based on the case numbers and spread. Dominguez said he “probably waited [in line] 15 minutes” and felt that the poll workers and election officials were properly enforcing mask-wearing among other COVID guidelines. “Overall, I felt very comfortable with the in-person voting process,” he said. The voting process itself was also different, Dominguez noted. Brand new this year was the presence of pens rather than stickers with a dual-purpose: “You could sign documents with the pen-end of the pen, but also when you’re voting on the screen, the back-end serves as a stylus to use on the touch screen.” Though Dominguez was “disappointed” that he didn’t get a sticker, he ultimately “appreciated” the fact that the pen was used to keep him safe.
Sophie Byers ‘22 (she/her) changed her registration from Alabama to North Carolina at one of the Davidson Votes tables this year “because [she] felt her vote would have a bigger impact in a swing state.” At the same time that she registered, she also requested her absentee by-mail ballot. Byers filled out her absentee ballot and turned it in at the outdoor, curbside voting station at Cornelius Town Hall. Byers said she “wanted to make sure [her] vote would get there on time” after hearing about the postal service being “overwhelmed” with ballots. Byers had her roommate witness her ballot, then took it to Cornelius with her close contacts. “We had to sign a form verifying it was us turning in the form […] the whole thing probably took about two minutes.”
At this point, election experts — and your humble writer — agree that it is too late to mail in your ballot through the postal service. The combination of delays in the post office and Supreme Court Rulings in other states about the validity of ballots received after Election Day make it quite risky to send you ballot back now. At this point, if you want to be COVID safe and vote, dropping your completed absentee ballot off at Cornelius Town Hall is your best bet.
If you’re nervous about voting in a different state and haven’t mailed in your absentee ballot yet, you can still register to vote in North Carolina at the Early Voting site. For more information on that, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early Voting will continue through October 31st at Cornelius Town Hall, and the Center for Political Engagement will be providing free shuttle rides from 1:00-3:00pm at Rich Circle if you need a ride. If you have any further questions about Early Voting or how to vote, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.