Voters in Orange County and across North Carolina are turning out in record numbers as the election approaches.
Over 4.5 million voters in North Carolina have already cast their ballots. This means over 60 percent of the state has already voted for the Nov. 3 election.
Mary-Kate Appanaitis, a junior at UNC, opted to vote via an absentee ballot.
“I felt that submitting a mail-in ballot would be the most effective and safest way to vote due to COVID,” she said.
Appanaitis said being able to vote early and then easily track her ballot was a priority in this election, due to the controversy of when mail-in ballots will or won’t be counted. She said making sure her vote counts is important because she feels this election's outcome will likely affect her post-college life.
Jessica Medlin, a UNC sophomore and early voter, cast her ballot in person at the Chapel of the Cross.
“I already knew who I wanted to vote for, so I didn't see a point in waiting any longer,” Medlin said.
Medlin, a first-time voter, said she considers this one of the most important elections in her lifetime and wanted to be sure that her voice was heard. She said she knows that a lot of young people don’t always get out to the polls, so it felt good to do her part.
The number of people who voted early in North Carolina this year surpassed how many people voted early in the state in the 2016 general election.
North Carolina's early in-person voting period began Oct. 15 and ended Oct. 31. This voting period allowed registered voters to cast their ballot at any polling site within their county.
Orange County Elections Director Rachel Raper said while mail-in voting has increased in comparison to the 2016 election, in-person, early voting is on par with the county's numbers from 2016.
"Early voting has always been popular in Orange County," she said.
Orange County has received 35,000 absentee ballot requests, 23,000 of which have been returned, Raper said. She said of the county’s registered voters, 58 percent cast their ballots either through the mail or in person prior to Election Day.
Instead of being handed an "I voted" sticker, Raper said this year, those who vote in person are given "I voted" pens. She said this is to decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19.
As far as Election Day goes, mail-in ballots in North Carolina must be received by Nov. 12 with a required postmark of Nov. 3 or earlier.
Raper said she predicts a slower election night due to the increased numbers of early voters in Orange County. A slower election night will allow precinct votes to be counted faster, along with the early in-person voting numbers and absentee ballots that have arrived by Election Day, she said.
Polling sites in Orange County are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Voters must show up at their assigned polling place in order to vote.
You can find your polling place at www.ncsbe.gov.
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