More than 41,000 people voted early in person in Orange County, and thousands more are expected to cast their ballots on Election Day.
Paula McKinley, who recently became a citizen of the U.S., voted for the second time in the United States during early voting on Oct. 22 in Hillsborough.
Following the 2020 general election, McKinley said she wanted to solidify her U.S. citizenship to ensure that her voice was heard in the next election. She became a citizen in October 2021 and voted in the primaries this spring.
“Up until now, I haven’t been an American," she said. "I have been a Canadian and British citizen, and decided to push through my citizenship after the last presidency to make sure that I had a vote.”
In the 2022 general election, citizens can cast their votes for government representatives, nonpartisan office positions and court officials.
North Carolina offered early voting, during which registered voters could cast an in-person absentee ballot. The early voting period began on Oct. 20 and ended on Nov. 5.
Orange County citizens turned out to fill in their ballots and support candidates at early voting locations across the community.
Dr. Michael Forbes, an assistant professor of neurology at UNC School of Medicine, said he makes a point to vote in every election.
He said he believes the country is better represented when more citizens take action in the form of voting.
“I really love to see a very high percentage of people going out and voting — 70, 80, 90 percent instead of 30 percent,” Forbes said.
Forbes said that making his voice heard in the form of voting makes him feel more represented.
He said he believes there is a lack of social engagement across the community and that he thinks having more discourse around the election in public spaces is a positive thing.
“When people don't vote, they miss out and when whole demographic blocks don't vote, they get almost disenfranchised by their own inaction and it's a shame,” he said.
In North Carolina, prior voters do not need a photo ID to vote and simply can provide their name to a poll worker. Citizens who are not registered to vote cannot do so on Election Day.
Lindsay Olson, who voted early on Oct. 31, said the voting process is straightforward.
“It's always been easy. It's accessible," Olson said. "I was in and out in five minutes today."
After living in Orange County for almost 10 years and voting in nearly every election, she said she believes participating is imperative for the community.
“It is essential to our democracy," Olson said. "It's foundational to our experience as citizens, as part of a community, to make our voices heard."
Kathy Murray, a member of the Orange County Democratic Party, was stationed outside the Chapel Hill Public Library on Oct. 31, providing voters with sample ballots prior to entering their polling place.
“I am really committed to democracy and I am very passionate about what the Democrats stand for and want to get the vote out,” she said.
Murray, who is from New York, said she didn’t feel the need to rally support for her choice of candidates in her home state, but she is organizing in Orange County.
She said she votes and volunteers for those who need support or may not have time to vote.
“The people who are having the hardest time are usually the ones who need the most to have a representative government that's looking out for them," she said.
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