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Why the voting lines won't be horrendous

Should N.C. voters be fretting about the possibility of horribly long lines on Election Day?

The math says no.

In the 2004 general election, 3.55 million voters cast ballots in North Carolina, with 1.1million of those coming in early voting, according to the N.C. Board of Elections. That left 2.45million state residents voting on Election Day.

In 2008, state officials expect a turnout of about 70 percent – or 4.5 million – of the state's registered voters. But early N.C. voting is on pace to reach 2.5million (the state will release final numbers today), leaving an expected 2 million voters casting ballots Tuesday. That's close to a half-million fewer Election Day voters than four years ago.

In Mecklenburg County, about 326,000 voters cast ballots in the 2004 general election. About 107,000 of those ballots came during early voting, and 219,000 voters went to the polls on Election Day.

A 70 percent turnout in Mecklenburg this year would mean about 438,000 people voting overall. We are on pace for about 215,000 to 220,000 early votes in the county. That leaves 218,000 to 223,000 people expected to vote Tuesday. Same as 2004.

Your caveats: Turnout at individual precincts will vary. Voting machines may malfunction. Turnout could rise to 80 percent. But even if it did, it's doubtful we'll see many stories of unusually long lines countywide.

So vote.

The game plan

Political experts say watch the campaign schedules – not the polls – on the final weekend of an election.

Barack Obama spends the day in Ohio and Joe Biden in Florida – both states where the ticket has a slight leads in polls. A victory in either would offset a McCain surge in Pennsylvania.

McCain is scheduled to campaign in three states – Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida – while Sarah Palin spends the day competing with Obama for Ohio's attention.

Poll of the day

State

Pennsylvania

Pollster

Rasmussen

Numbers

President: Barack Obama 51, John McCain 47.

Details

500 likely voters, margin of error, +/- 4.5 percentage points.

What it means

McCain continues to tighten the race in Pennsylvania, moving three points closer to Obama in five days, according to Rasmussen. McCain and Palin have been attentive to the state, which is critical to their electoral strategy. The Obama campaign has not scheduled an event there since Tuesday – with no events scheduled from now until Election Day.

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