With five days to go, North Carolina voters are heading to early voting sites in unprecedented numbers.
Since the polls opened Oct. 18 for early voting, North Carolina voters have turned out in droves. On the first day, 28 percent more ballots were cast in the state than on the opening day in 2008, The Charlotte Observer reported. Across the state, early voting is up 20 percent from this time four years ago, according to an Oct. 28 Obama for America press release. Duke’s on-campus one-stop early voting site has had 5,529 votes cast as of Monday night.
“One-stop voting is convenient voting—it’s more convenient than the traditional way,” said Landon Warward, a one-stop supervisor for the Durham County Board of Elections.
The total count across the state is 1.3 million votes cast—227,000 more than four years ago—according to the Obama for America press release. Of these voters, Democrats make up 50 percent, and Republicans make up 31 percent, a margin of 240,000 voters.
The increase in early voting reflects the efforts of both campaigns to draw voters to the polls as soon as possible, said Kerry Haynie, associate professor of political science. He noted that the Obama campaign has been particularly active and well-organized in rallying voters.
“The campaigns want to make sure that they get those voters to the polls as soon as they can to make sure the votes are actually cast,” Haynie said.
Voters have 16 days to cast their votes during early voting, as well as register on site if they missed the registration deadline, which closed earlier this month. Candidates are focused on urging voters to cast their ballots before Nov. 6, when an emergency or forgetfulness may prevent them from voting, Haynie said.
Duke’s one-stop voting site has similarly increased since 2008, said sophomore Adrienne Harreveld, co-president of Duke Democrats. She attributed the increased early voting activity in part to the organization’s new strategy on campus.
“This year the Democrat strategy has been very involved,” she said. “We have had a big presence on campus since school started, more people have registered to vote and we have events every day to make sure that students go to vote.”
Such events include phone banks, dorm storming, leaflets and distributing general information about the races.
Votes cast at the Duke site comprise 8.1 percent of Durham County’s votes as of Oct. 29, according to the Durham County Board of Elections. When early voting ended in the 2008 general election, 9,361 people had voted at the Duke site, The Chronicle previously reported. In order to pass that total, more than 3,832 additional votes will need to be cast on campus in the remaining five days of early voting.
Although the proportion of non-Duke voters remains relatively low compared to students, faculty and medical center staff at the campus site, the number has increased over the years following efforts to make the site more accessible, Warward said. Curbside parking in front of the chapel is now reserved for voters, attracting voters who were deterred by the parking situation on campus before.
Although early voting is important, Haynie cautioned that the numbers cannot accurately predict who will take the state. He added, however, that the numbers thus far reflect how competitive the battle for North Carolina will be—the droves of Duke students and community members heading to the polls will influence that race.
“It looks pretty impressive,” Haynie said. “It’s a good sign for the Obama campaign, seeing as they tend to lead this demographic of students.”
Harreveld stressed how important it is that Duke students take advantage of these last few days of early voting and encouraged students to not forget about the other races on the ballot.
“Duke students need to realize that they have a responsibility to vote and a responsibility to know about the other races on the ballot because it will affect them whether they realize it or not,” she said.