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Early voting period gives voters options to cast ballots before Election Day

DTH Photo Illustration. A trial has begun which challenges NC's 2018 law requiring photo ID to vote.

Voting on Election Day can be difficult for students, but one option can be convenient their schedules.

Early voting allows people to vote in the municipal elections during a designated period before the general election on Nov. 2. The early voting period opened on Oct. 14 and closes on Oct. 30.

“Students, just like any other voter in Orange County, can present in person at any of the locations that are open and operating during the early voting period,” Jamie Cox, chairperson of the Orange County Board of Elections, said. “It is not tied to precinct — you can vote at any one of them."

Cox also said the schedule of hours and directions to the four early voting locations are available on the Orange County Board of Elections website

“Students can register, update their registration and vote at the same time during their in-person early voting,” Cox said.

According to the North Carolina State Board of Elections website, college students can provide proof of residence with a current university photo identification card paired with one of the following:

  • “Any document originating with the education institution and containing the student’s name and on-campus housing address or facility name."
  • "A current roster prepared by the college/university and transmitted to the elections office, which lists all students residing in campus housing facilities.”

“The other way to vote early is absentee or by mail,” Cox said. “Students, like any other voter in Orange County, need to be registered in order to request an absentee ballot by mail.”

Cox also said voters can request an absentee ballot online through a portal operated by the NCSBE.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. The ballot will be mailed to the address the individual has on record and must be returned to the Board of Elections office by 5 p.m. on Election Day.

Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections, said it is important for students to vote in municipal elections.

“The Chapel Hill Town Council adopts a lot of policies that have effects on students and they control a lot of development issues like construction, multi-family housing and improving plans for housing,” Cohen said.

He also said early voting gives voters more options.

“It enables voters to vote in selected locations prior to the elections,” Cohen said. “It’s convenient in that there are 13 consecutive days with weekend and evening hours.” 

He also said those who registered to vote in Orange County in prior elections are still registered to vote in the county if they live in the area.

Alex Mays, a junior at UNC, said voting early is more convenient for him than waiting until Election Day. 

“I think that early voting makes it a lot easier to go because it’s more flexible with my schedule than if I had to go on Election Day,” Mays said.

Mays also said he enjoys the experience of in-person voting, but absentee or mail-in ballots are especially important for people during the pandemic.

“Absentee ballots are good if you don’t want to go in person,” Mays said. "I was happy that I was able to in-person for the 2020 elections, but the addition of the mail-in option definitely made it more COVID-safe.”

The four early voting election sites are Chapel of the Cross, Seymour Senior Center, Carrboro Town Hall Complex and Orange Works at Hillsborough Commons. 


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