The clock is ticking down for No Excuse Voting, so I stopped by the Morehead Planetarium last week to dig up insider details and pass them on to those who have yet to vote.
12:30 p.m. I enter the door of the Morehead Planetarium facing the quad, greet the girl sitting at the desk and follow the signs into the polling place. Three people are ahead of me in line.
12:33. I sit down to fill out the form certifying that I'm a registered voter in Orange County. I'm glad I brought my voter registration card with me so I could just copy the pertinent information onto my form.
I'm surprised they don't need my drivers' license, but I see they're checking on a computer to make sure the person with my name is registered in Orange County. They take the ballot away from a woman behind me when they realize she's not registered.
12:35. Chief Judge James Weathers explains the ballot to me in a speech he has given more than 1,000 times already. He shows me that even if I want to vote a straight ticket (all the candidates of a party at once) I must still vote for the president, the higher education bond and the soil and water conservation district supervisor separately.
12:38. Mr. Weathers sends me off with a black magic marker to connect the arrows on my ballot in one of seven blue-partitioned voting booths. I get busy, pausing only as I attempt to remember the name of the candidate for state dogcatcher I saw advertised the night before.
12:41. I survey in dismay the long list of judges, none of whose names I recognize. Because I don't believe in voting for judges based on political party, I leave them all blank and hope that other voters are more informed than I.
12:43. I slide my ballot into the electronic ballot box, which makes a satisfied beep as it swallows my votes into its belly.
That's it. It takes 13 minutes to participate in our democracy. But lines are getting longer, so don't put voting off too long.
Democracy doesn't have to be convenient, but that's the case in No Excuse Voting. As long as you're a registered voter in Orange County, you can vote at the planetarium from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. through Friday.
Even students who live off campus can cast their ballots within walking distance of their 10 a.m. classes.
By Tuesday morning, 1,997 people had voted there. The Carrboro Town Hall and the Orange County Board of Elections house other No Excuse poll sites.
The new method appeals to adults because it allows them to avoid long lines after work on Election Day. "Our precinct has a lot of people and here we don't have to wait very long," said Nancy Dole, a staff member at the Carolina Population Center, who voted with her husband. "In presidential years, we sometimes wait half an hour."
Students like No Excuse Voting because they can cast their ballot whenever it's convenient. Natalie Crater, a freshman from Winston-Salem, was voting for the first time. "I (voted) because I know I'll forget," she said. "I remembered today, so I came."
But Weathers said the pollsters were disappointed in student turnout. This is especially deplorable since the Elections Board placed the site at the Morehead Planetarium for students' benefit.
To their credit, some students have voted and others have tried. Some ran into trouble when they tried to vote at the planetarium without changing their registration to Orange County.
But Weathers said most of the voters coming through have said they were pleased with the process. "The people coming through have generally been really excited about where the location is for them," he said. "We're in the center of town for people working with the University and Chapel Hill."
But it ends at 4:45 p.m. Friday.
You have three days left to cast your ballot before you have to wait in lines for half an hour or more next Tuesday.
Three days to vote on a student's schedule instead of an adult's. Or wait until Tuesday. But with the new options, there's really no excuse not to vote.
Columnist Anne Fawcett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.