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Friday February 3rd

A look at early voting turnout numbers in Orange County before the midterm elections

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As of Oct. 31, 24.8 percent of registered voters have voted absentee mail-in and in-person in Orange County. 

Simon Palmore, a senior at UNC and poll volunteer with the Orange County Democratic Party, said early voting is a quick process that can be done anywhere in the county.

Lindsey May, an early voter in Carrboro, said she has voted in every election since 2018.

“It gives us a voice in what happens, for what little voice we can have,” she said.

Having recently moved to North Carolina, May said she has found early voting to be a good way to take care of casting her ballot before the work week.

Palmore said voting early also helps candidates put more resources toward reaching undecided voters.

“The faster you early vote, the sooner you’re taken off the call lists and door knocking lists and campaigns can devote their resources to voters who may need more help coming out to the polls,” he said.

Volunteers with the Orange County Democratic Party, such as Amy Athavale and Solomon Gibson III, are providing sample ballots and information outside of voting sites around the county. 

Gibson III said voting is important for involvement in current events in the state and country. 

“It’s the one place you actually can express yourself in a real way that has the potential to make any kind of difference,” Gibson III said.

In Orange County, almost five times more Democrats voted in the primaries than Republicans, and six times more Democrats voted early.

State-wide, early voting in midterm elections has grown over time. 

In the 2014 midterm primaries, 26 percent of votes were cast by absentee mail-in and in-person early voters in North Carolina. In 2018, that total increased to 31 percent. 

Early voter turnout is generally higher for presidential election years than for midterm elections. In the 2020 general election, over 50,000 people voted early in person in Orange County. 

However, the early voting turnout in the county for the 2022 midterm election has almost reached the total early voting turnout for the 2014 midterm election.

This year's increase in turnout as compared to 2014 might be connected to issues on the ballot – including access to reproductive health. 

“I’m really upset about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I’m really upset about anti-trans legislation in a lot of different states and I’m really worried about the possibility of local elections forcing a veto-proof majority of Republicans in the state House and state Senate,” Athavale said. “That could be disastrous for us.”

Orange County residents can vote early at a variety of locations throughout Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Efland, according to the Orange County Board of Elections.

Many students go in groups to vote at the Chapel of the Cross voting location on East Franklin Street, but there is a good mixture of non-student voters as well, Palmore said.

Megan Wagner, the president of UNC Young Democrats, said she believes student voters are going to be important in the upcoming election. 

The UNC Young Democrats worked to register student voters in Orange County while registration was open. Now, Wagner said they are providing information about candidates and encouraging students to vote.

Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for the North Carolina U.S. Senate seat, lost by 412 votes in the race for Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court in 2020, which Wagner noted is less than the number of students in just one of the freshman dorms on campus.

“Just in general, students, young voters can and will be the margin of victory in the election,” she said.

Early voting continues through Nov. 5 and Election Day is on Nov. 8. 

@eliza_benbow

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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