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In Mecklenburg County And Statewide, Early Voting Turnout Easily Beats Last Midterm

N.C. Board of Elections.

Early voting turnout increased about 40 percent in Mecklenburg County compared to the last midterm election, according to the county board of elections. That's despite seven fewer days of early voting as a result of the state's sweeping election overhaul.

North Carolina's Republican lawmakers passed a law last year cutting the early voting period by a week. Most counties are still required to offer the same total hours of early voting though.

Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson said his county pulled that off by opening six more polling sites.

"Thank goodness my board decided to open up 21 sites instead of reducing any sites because obviously the voters enjoy it," he said.

About 92,000 people voted early in Mecklenburg County. That's a roughly 40 percent increase over the last midterm election in 2010. Statewide, about 20 percent more people voted early, according to the North Carolina Board of Elections. When you factor in population growth, the increase is only 2 percent. 

Dickerson said no matter how you look at it, people really like early voting.

"And I see that as a continual growth; this county has shown that every time we do early voting, more and more participate in it for the equivalent election process," he said.

Democrats and unaffiliated voters accounted for the biggest part of the increase in Mecklenburg County and statewide. Also, about 45 percent more African-Americans voted early in North Carolina compared to the last midterm election. With population growth, the increase is again much smaller: about a 5 percent increase for African-Americans.

Dickerson said Mecklenburg County heard standard complaints about long lines, with sites in Steele Creek and the University area having the longest waits.

At the library near UNC Charlotte, "we had a two-hour line the first day, people waiting out there to get in to vote early," he said. "Then you go down to Elon Park or Marion Diehl, it's walk-in, walk-out. So it varies around the city."

Dickerson said strong early voting turnout makes election day much easier. Polls opened at 6:30 Tuesday morning and close at 7:30 Tuesday night. He said everyone who's standing in line by 7:30 will get to vote.