Early voting turnout in Orange County is skyrocketing as the country approaches Election Day.
In the 2014 Orange County general election, voters cast 23,194 early ballots in the nine-day early voting period. As of Wednesday, early voting totals in Orange County came in at 32,630 ballots.
“The turnout has been greater than what I anticipated,” said Rachel Raper, director of elections in Orange County. “But not (greater) than what I prepared for, because we prepare for a 100 percent turnout.”
She said the numbers are growing because of the long early voting hours and numerous sites.
“There’s really a huge opportunity for people to just go vote early,” Raper said.
An early voting period is often more convenient than a single election day because it allows those who live in Orange County to pick a time that works best for them to vote.
“It fit better in my schedule, honestly,” said UNC junior Maaya Dev, who voted at Chapel of the Cross. “I just wanted to make sure that I could. I feel a moral obligation to vote, or I feel that it’s important for everyone to go out if they have an opinion on it.”
The increase in voters has been attributed to the current polarized political climate.
“I think the political environment is tense right now and that drives people to the polls,” Raper said.
The general election does not contain any senate or state-wide race, which is referred to as a "blue moon election." But students such as sophomore Hunter Moore are still heading to the polls in an effort to make their voices heard.
“I feel I have a responsibility as a citizen to incite change and try to use my vote to represent those that are less heard in the community,” Moore said.
Early voting also allows ballots to be cast in a more efficient, time-saving manner. With multiple voting days, the polls are not packed with people trying to vote at the last minute, said UNC junior Mary Galey.
“I have done a lot of volunteering at early voting, and all of the lines have been super short. People are able to get in and out very quickly, and it’s so flexible,” Galey said. “With almost 20 days of early voting, there is no excuse to not vote.”
Several groups on campus are dedicated to encouraging early voting. NCPIRG brings awareness to the accessibility of early voting and the importance of exercising the right to vote. Bridget Killian, NCPIRG's campaign coordinator, said millennials are the largest and most diverse voting group in the country, but the least likely to actually vote.
“If we encourage students and people from our generation to go vote and be actively participatory, then those issues will get talked about,” Killian said. “Our voices will be heard because we know that our democracy works best when everyone’s voice is heard, and we want to make sure everyone has that opportunity.”
Chapel of the Cross on Franklin Street is the closest early voting site to campus. The early voting period ends on Nov. 3 at 3 p.m.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.