Durham, N.C. — Voters across the Triangle woke up early on Friday morning and braved the gloomy weather to cast their ballots. Early voting began in North Carolina on Thursday, where the Triangle saw “unprecedented” long lines.
Early voting runs through Oct. 31, but the State Board of Elections said Friday that more than 1 million people – more than 14 percent of the state’s 7.3 million registered voters – have already cast their ballots either in person or by mail.
More than 333,000 people cast early, in-person ballots on Thursday alone, and state officials said they believe the turnout was a one-day record for early voting, topping the 304,000 who voted on the final day of early voting in the 2016 election.
By Friday afternoon, the early voting totals were approaching 470,000, while mailed absentee ballots has surpassed 570,000, officials said.
Lonnie Lucas Jr. was the first man in line at the polling site on East Martin Street in Raleigh on Friday. He was standing in the rain two hours before the place opened.
“It’s important for me to exercise my right and not give my power to nobody else,” Lucas said. “I feel its my right and opportunity to voice my opinion. Voice my concerns by my vote.”
“We’ve seen incredible enthusiasm so far,” said Jason Roberts, professor in political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Anyone who already requested an absentee ballot but then changes their mind and are now planning on voting in person can do so, according to officials. They just cannot vote in person and send in an absentee ballot.
Early voting sites are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first two Saturdays of the period. On Sundays, the polling sites are open from 1 to 6 p.m. During the last Saturday of early voting, the sites will be open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
People who missed last week’s voter registration deadline can register and vote at the same time during early voting. Proof of residence, such as a driver’s license, other government-issued photo ID or a utility bill, is needed to register. If a college student is registering to vote, they must provide their university ID plus proof of their campus addresses.
During early voting, people can vote anywhere in the county where they are registered to vote. On Election Day, however, people have to vote at their designated precinct.
On Thursday, some Triangle voters reported waiting in lines as long as four to five hours before casting their votes. To avoid the lines in Durham County, the local board of elections released a tool to help people check long wait times.
Polling locations have 6-foot separation lines striping the pavement along with signs to remind anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to vote from their cars. Voters are strongly encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Each polling location has an option for curbside voting for people who can’t physically enter the building without assistance.