The brisk October air reddened peoples’ noses at the Forsyth County Board of Elections. Clusters of campaign posters were posted around the entrance. Walking up to the building, voters were greeted by smiling campaigners, passing out flyers with information on the candidates. Walking out, voters sported their oval-shaped “I Voted Early” stickers.
As of October 30th, Forsyth County voters have cast almost 15,000 more votes this early voting period than in 2014. According to ncvotetracker.com, a project of Civitas, 48,029 people have cast their vote with 46,172 cast with one-stop voting and 1,857 in mail.
“When voting is a period rather than a day, we are able to gain a more representative government,” said Madeline Coffey, campaign manager for 5th congressional district Democratic candidate Denise D. Adams. “I can’t stress enough how important early voting is throughout the state of North Carolina.”
Compared to 2014, the early voting period has been extended. Instead of 10 days, Tim Tsujii, Elections Director at the Forsyth County Board of Elections, explained this cycle was 18 days in total with an additional early voting location making 11 in total.
Early voting started on October 17th and will last until November 3rd. Weekdays, the Forsyth County Board of Elections and the 10 satellite locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The sites are also open two Saturdays, November 3rd and October 27th from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but there is no Sunday early voting this election cycle.
Tsujii stated, “Early voting offers people the opportunity to be able to cast votes conveniently out of Election Day.” For voter Gerald Hutson, this is exactly his case. Hutson is the owner of Bus Stop Barber Shop on 4th Street. He voted early at the Board of Elections this year because it was his day off. “I don’t have time to vote on Election Day,” he said.
Hear the voices of three early voters who voted last week at the Board of Elections downtown.
Tsujii added that one can register to vote and vote the same day during the early voting session, all that is needed is documentation showing residency. Early voting also helps combat long lines on Election Day.
While there are many races this election cycle, there aren’t any traditional high-profile races. The Forsyth County ballot includes the U.S. House of Representatives, state and local offices, constitutional amendments on voter photo identification and other issues and city of Winston-Salem bonds.
“The Democratic Party passed the law to create early voting, because it extends the window to cast votes,” Wake Forest Politics Professor Michael Pisapia said. “It gives the person who may not have the confidence to ask their employer to leave work to vote on election day, a chance to vote – or the mom who has to pick up her kids. Having one voting day favors those who have more resources or are on a higher scale socioeconomically.”
The popularity of early voting has steadily risen, as 37 states now host a time frame prior to Election Day for people to cast their votes. Advocates of early voting vouch for its convenience, while opponents typically feel that it allows for voters to rig elections by voting more than once.
“No matter the early voting numbers, the races are still up in the air. North Carolinians won’t know the winnings until November 6th,” John M. at the Forsyth County Republican Party said, “We aren’t concerned with the (early voting) numbers; we are just working until election day.” John, who answered the phone, would not give his last name.
Given North Carolina’s history with Voter ID, there has been some confusion on whether an ID is needed to cast a ballot. While there is an amendment requiring Voter ID, there is no requirement this election cycle. While some voters plan to vote yes on the amendment, others are firmly against it.
When asked about early voting and the proposed amendment, voter Jim Chandler said, “Early voting is important. It is a tragedy that there are politicians who believe there should be an obstacle to voting. It concerns me there are restrictions on early voting.”
This story was produced with interviews from Will May, Katherine Laws, Jessica Baker, and David Ajamy. Ajamy co-wrote the story; Laws edited the audio.