Attendees gathered outside at 3:30 p.m. to hear local speakers before entering the building to cast their ballots for the May 6 primary.
Among the six politicians and leaders who addressed the small crowd was Student Body President-elect Andrew Powell, who spoke about UNC’s responsibility as a public institution to encourage its students to vote.
“In a democracy, preparing the leaders of tomorrow is a responsibility of the entire state,” Powell said.
Chancellor Carol Folt encouraged students to consider voting a part of their education.
“Education is for the future,” she said. “And voting is your chance to change your future.”
The early voting location moved to the N.C. Hillel building because of accessibility issues at its previous location at Rams Head Dining Hall. In recent years, early voting has moved from Morehead Planetarium to University Square to the Rams Head location.
“We’re getting more traffic than I thought we would,” said poll worker Diana Getzelmann. “Both adults and students.”
Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow said advantages of the new location include its proximity to both students and faculty, public transportation access, its available parking and curbside voting.
Storrow said students should be encouraged to learn and care about local issues and to vote when elections roll around.
“It’s articulating the importance of the issues that impact students — for example, a few years ago the commissioners put a transit tax on the ballot, and that was a long term benefit to UNC students,” he said.
Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said student votes will be especially important in upcoming controversial North Carolina elections.
“We want people to be able to vote early, easily and readily,” he said.
Price said this goal was made more difficult by North Carolina’s recent House Bill 589 , which will require voter ID in elections starting in 2015, shortens the early voting period and eliminates same-day registration for voters.
Pete Beckman, a volunteer for the Democratic party who handed out voting info outside the Hillel building, said the best voting sites see a mix of young and old voters.
James Weathers, the one-stop chief judge in Orange County, said the polling station’s location right off campus is confusing for some voters.
“One lady came in and said, ‘Can I vote here, or is it just for students?” he said.
Hillel executive director Ari Gauss said Hillel has been active on social media, advertising the upcoming election and where to vote.
“We value being a resource,” Gauss said. “It’s a service we can provide to the community.”