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Orange County will open 4 one-stop early voting locations starting Thursday

Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents who missed Friday’s voter registration deadline need not worry. Beginning Thursday, voters will have another chance to register to vote in Orange County — and can cast their ballots while they’re at it.

One-stop early voting begins Thursday for Orange County municipal elections and lasts until Nov. 5, excluding some weekend days. Early voting gives residents the chance to avoid Election Day chaos by visiting one of four polls in Carrboro, Chapel Hill or Hillsborough.

“Those people who missed the registration deadline can go in and do a same-day registration during the early voting period, which isn’t available on Election Day,” said Tracy Reams, director of Orange County Board of Elections.

One-stop early voting closest to campus will take place at University Square, replacing the Morehead Planetarium location.

Reams said early voting has become more popular in recent elections because a greater number of voters have recognized its convenience.

According to the Orange County Board of Elections, one-stop early voting accounted for about 20 percent of voter turnout in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro’s 2009 municipal elections.

Reams said voter turnout is higher during presidential election years, like in 2008, when more than 51 percent of voters opted to vote early.

But candidates for both Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen said they are working hard to motivate people to vote early.

Chapel Hill Town Council candidate Jason Baker said he has been reminding voters about the change in early voting venue.

“With the early voting locations changing, it’s been important to bring it up in every conversation I have with the voters,” he said.

Alderman Dan Coleman, who is up for re-election this year, said he is also encouraging people to vote early.

“It gives them more opportunities to get out to the polls,” he said.

Student groups are also spreading the word about early voting.

UNC Young Democrats president Nathan Westmoreland said the group will be out in force urging students to vote.

“We want to focus on being in visible areas around campus like by Rams Head and the Pit with signs,” he said.

College Republicans are also planning to remind people to vote throughout the next two weeks, chairman Greg Steele said.

“We will be passing out materials to students around campus reminding them about the change from Morehead to University Square,” he said.

Early voting is becoming increasingly important for all types of elections, said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for more voter participation.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s municipal or presidential, early voting is very important because it offers two things — convenience and another chance to register,” he said.

Hall also stressed the greater flexibility of early voting.

“It well could be terrible weather on Election Day or there could be a conflict with work or class, so it offers a greater opportunity for more people to participate,” he said.

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Hall said North Carolina is the only state in the South that has same-day registration, and only nine states in the country offer it.

He said early voters differ by year.

“It’s used by all types of individuals, but mainly those people who are excited about the upcoming election.”

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