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Decision 2008

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Early voting triggers strong turnout

By Steve Harrison
sharrison@charlotteobserver.com

More Information

  • Full Slideshow
  • Voters Guide: Our region's races
  • In North Carolina, early voting runs through Saturday, Nov. 1. Registered voters – and eligible residents who want to register now – will have more than two weeks to cast early ballots.

    You are eligible to register and vote if you have lived in the state 30 days before Election Day.

    You must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old on Nov. 4 (Election Day).

    HOW TO REGISTER: People who have lived in the state 30 days prior to Election Day, who are U.S. citizens and who will be at least 18 on Nov. 4 are eligible to register and vote during early voting. To register, bring identification showing name and current address. Government-issued identification, such as a driver's license or military ID, are fine. Utility bills are acceptable. Students can use a school ID if they also bring correspondence from the school that also shows the person's address. College students should register in the jurisdiction they call home.

    IF YOU'VE REGISTERED ALREADY: You won't need to show identification unless you're a first-time voter who did not provide a valid identity number or a copy of an ID when you first registered. The state board of elections said only a few thousand of the roughly 6 million registered N.C. voters will need to show an ID, and those people have already been notified by mail of the requirement.

    MECKLENBURG SITES

    Extended weekday hours: CPCC – central campus facilities building, 1325 E. Seventh St., Charlotte. Hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 31; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 25; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 26; and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 1

    ADDITIONAL LOCATIONS

    Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. through Oct. 31 (weekdays); 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 25; 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 26; and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 1

    Beatties Ford Road Library, 2412 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte

    CPCC – North Campus, 11930 Verhoeff Drive, Huntersville

    Cornelius Library, 21105 Catawba Ave., Cornelius

    Freedom Regional Library, 1230 Alleghany St., Charlotte

    Hayes Building (Ballantyne), 11405 N. Community House Road, Charlotte

    Independence Regional Library, 6015 Conference Drive, Charlotte

    Main Library, 310 N. Tryon St., Charlotte

    Marion Diehl Recreation Center, 2219 Tyvola Road, Charlotte

    Matthews Branch Library, 230 Matthews Station St., Matthews

    Morrison Regional Library, 7015 Morrison Blvd., Charlotte

    Mountain Island Library, 4420 Hoyt Galvin Way, Charlotte

    North County Regional Library, 16500 Holly Crest Lane, Huntersville

    Plaza Midwood Branch Library, 1623 Central Ave., Charlotte

    South County Regional Library, 5801 Rea Road, Charlotte

    Steele Creek Library, 13620 Steele Creek Road, Charlotte

    Sugar Creek Library, 4045 N. Tryon St., Charlotte

    UNC Charlotte/Cone Center, 9201 University City Blvd., Charlotte

    University City Regional Library, 301 East W.T. Harris Blvd., Charlotte

    West Boulevard Library, 2157 West Blvd., Charlotte



The line snaked through the South County Regional Library and stretched 30 yards down a sidewalk when early voting began Thursday morning.

David Pendel, a management consultant, wore a Barack Obama T-shirt to the library on Rea Road. He said he voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004, but recently left the Republican Party: “I just think they have gone in the wrong direction.”

Homemaker Sue Melvin, a Bush voter in 2000 and 2004, voted for John McCain: “He's the man for the job. I don't want to take a chance on a young guy who hasn't done anything. And I don't trust his background.”

Elections director Michael Dickerson said turnout Thursday was heavy “all over the place, not just in one part of town.” An early count showed that at least 7,000 people voted, he said.

At the Plaza Midwood library, one man stood in line as early as 7:30 a.m. – even though voting didn't begin until 11 a.m.

With North Carolina now seen as a presidential toss-up state, and the Obama campaign heavily organized here, Mecklenburg elections officials are bracing for heavy turnout – both in early voting and on Election Day. The Mecklenburg Board of Elections has designated 20 early voting sites, compared with 12 in 2004.

Four years ago, 744 people cast ballots on the first day of early voting when there was only one polling place open.

Dickerson said he's hoping 150,000 people vote early out of the expected 400,000 to 450,000 Mecklenburg voters.

Both campaigns are pushing early voting because it gives them insurance against potential problems on Election Day, such as bad weather. It also gives them multiple chances to bring ambivalent voters to the polls.

The Mecklenburg elections office will update the names of people who voted early each night. That will give both Republicans and Democrats valuable information for targeting voters in the last 21/2 weeks of the campaign.

Obama supporters were the most visible at the South County Regional Library, with many wearing T-shirts touting the Democrat. But there were plenty of McCain supporters there, too.

Julie Young, who is in medical sales, is a Republican who voted for Bush twice. On Thursday, she voted for McCain. She said she didn't question Obama's intelligence, but said she wasn't convinced he had enough experience to be president.

Her husband, Tracy Young, said he voted for Bush twice and wasn't enthusiastic about McCain. But Obama's ticket “is just more of the same (Democratic policies),” he said.

At the Beatties Ford Road Library, an Obama volunteer said he was giving rides to voters. Another Obama volunteer came with bottled water that she gave to voters waiting in line outside, on an unusually warm October day.

Skip Klapheke, a retired banker, voted for Obama at Central Piedmont Community College uptown.

“We just need a fresh start,” he said. “We've got years of hard work to get out from where we are.”

Crowded polling places were reported around the state.

In Raleigh, Louise Renner, 79, voted for the first time since 1976 because she is angry.

Using a walker, she inched her way down Fayetteville Street from her apartment complex to be one of the first to cast her ballot at the Wake Board of Elections office. Renner declined to say who she was voting for, but said she wanted to make a statement by voting early.

“I'm so burned up with the way this country is being run,” she said. “It's not just one thing, but everything.”

Kenny McLawhorn, a UNC-Chapel Hill freshman from Kinston, voted in his first election Thursday. He voted a straight Republican ticket, even though the 18-year-old said he was not happy with the way President Bush has conducted the war in Iraq.

“McCain I see as not as far right as Bush is,” McLawhorn said. “He's more moderate, and Obama's too far left.”

Michael Evans, political director for the Mecklenburg Democratic Party, said he would like to see 50 percent of Democrats vote early.

He said a concerted get-out-the-vote effort will begin later this month, with volunteers picking people up at senior centers and low-income housing projects. He said Democrats have a “Souls to the Polls” event planned for Sunday, Oct. 26, to take people from church to the polls.

Mecklenburg Republicans plan to use volunteers to place door-hangers on Republican households listing the party's candidates and will also do a mailing. For the first time, the party is planning to place volunteer poll observers at all early voting sites.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer contributed.

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