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Early voter turnout in Wake County’s Oct. 10 municipal elections was 10,143. This is up from 3,047 in 2015, according to Wake County Board of Elections' records. 

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said early voting has been growing in popularity across the country. 

“That attention to early voting that happened in the 2008 election, both in the primaries and in the general, really opened up the public’s awareness about the value and the reliability of early voting, and then it’s just continued to grow,” he said.

Robert Joyce, public law and government professor at UNC, said in a blog post from August that early voting is very popular in North Carolina. 

“In the presidential election in 2012, for example, 56.3 percent of voters cast their ballots at an early voting site,” he said.

Lauren Nelson, early voting manager at the Wake County Board of Elections, said in an email increased availability may have contributed to higher turnout. 

"The increased number of early voting locations in the October 2017 municipal election over previous municipal elections is likely a factor that contributed to this election's turnout," she said.

Hall said many people may have chosen to vote early in Wake County’s elections because of grassroots efforts. 

“There may have been a group that did mailers or did calling to encourage their supporters to go use early voting,” he said. “It was a higher interest race, so that also stimulates interest.”

Joyce said the increase in early voting turnout could be because of its convenience.

“It’s more convenient,” he said. “You can get to a location that suits you best rather than being limited to your precinct, and you can go on a day that suits you perhaps better than actual election day.”

Hall said some voters may be under the impression that their early or absentee ballots will not count unless the race is close. 

“That’s just not true,” he said. “They all count.”

Joyce said in the blog post early voting is a form of absentee voting and challenges to an absentee voter's qualifications to vote may be made on election day itself.

"There must be a way to retrieve the ballot so that it will not be counted if, as a result of a challenge hearing, it is determined that the voter was in fact not qualified," he said. 

Nelson said early voting can ease stress on voters. 

"For the voter, early voting allows more date and time options for voting and allows them to go to any site and receive the correct ballot style for their jurisdictions," she said. "It also reduces voter lines on election day."

Hall said voters should remember they really do have an impact on local elections. 

“Despite all the attention that’s given to big money, people still have a very important way to express their voice, and I think hopefully that it showed there in Raleigh,” he said. “It can change the status quo, and it does over and over again.”


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