Tag Archives: NC early voting

Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central NC, Part 3

Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central North Carolina, Third Installment                                   —by Jinny Batterson

After an exhausting week, our early voting team processed our final voter at about 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. Polls officially closed at 1 p.m., but anyone in line then was entitled to cast a ballot. With each successive day of the week, lines got longer—on Monday and Tuesday, we were generally able to keep the wait time to an hour or less. On Saturday morning, before we even opened at 9, the line snaked around the edges of the parking lot and spilled over into a nearby field, requiring more crowd control chains to keep it at least partly organized. Many voters waited for two hours or more.

The site where I worked this past week is in a part of North Carolina’s Research Triangle that has a substantial Asian population. We processed more than a few Patels, along with some Wangs, Zhangs and Nguyens.  I was somewhat surprised at the number of voters with Hispanic surnames who came to our site to cast their ballots. Many voters of all backgrounds came in family groups. Our youngest “future voter” was only three days old.  Children were generally well-behaved, but most evenings produced at least one cranky toddler (not surprising given the wait times).  A few assistance dogs went through the lines with their voters; at least one wheelchair-bound voter cast his ballot, as did a few voters with vision or hearings impairments who used a special machine that provided magnification and voice-overs of ballot choices.      

According to our local TV news channel, by the end of today’s voting, nearly 44% of eligible voters in our county had cast ballots, either in person or by mail, a new record, surpassing the 2012 total by over 40,000 votes. I’m glad I had a chance to facilitate the process. Whatever the election’s outcome, I’m heartened to see so many people turn out to vote. During wait times, voters often chatted with their line-mates. As people approached the voting area, I saw some handshakes and exchanges of contact information. I tried not to prejudge which people would be likely to support which candidates. Except for a few enthusiasts of all persuasions who sported strident slogans on their clothing, it was impossible to tell. We poll workers were given very strict instructions about the sanctity of the secret ballot.

I’m about as tired as I’ve ever been. As a non-partisan worker, I get two days respite before Election Day on Tuesday. Maybe I’ll catch up on sleep and exercise just a bit.  However, I’m grateful to have had a chance to bear direct witness as nearly 20,000 of my fellow citizens exercised their right to choose their elected officials—officials who’ll help direct our schools, our courts, our county government, our state and our nation. Whatever our democracy’s flaws, and they are many, our actual voting process can be a beautiful thing.    

Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central NC, Part 2

Vignettes of 2016 Voting in Central North Carolina, Second Installment                                  —by Jinny Batterson

By now, the early voting period for this fall’s election is more than half over where I live. For the first few days this week, I worked at a high-volume site, one of nine opened for a full period of early voting in our county. Midweek, I had part of a day off, then resumed work at a smaller, later-opening station.

So far, my favorite task has been greeting potential voters at the front door. We’ve had beautiful weather. Standing at a sunny entrance bragging just a bit about our previous days’ vote totals is enjoyable. I also get to explain in a low-key way some ground rules for indoor behavior—cell phones on mute or vibrate, no electronic communications in the voting booth, no photo ID required unless needed to verify name and address of a first-time voter. Because voting rules have changed several times since the previous presidential election, the introduction serves to minimize potential problems. For me, what has been most enjoyable of all is a chance to see the variety of voters and to interact with some just a bit. 

At both sites, our workload has been steady enough so that there’s little time for chitchat. Staff and voters are careful to avoid partisanship inside the voting enclosure. I’m not sure what proportion of the voting population at either polling station belongs to which political party. I’m pretty sure there have been at least a few Libertarian voters.  One independent-minded gentleman volunteered the information that he’d written in his mother for president. We’ve processed at least one voter who wore a burka, a few who were blind and brought seeing relatives to assist them, more with mobility problems who needed to vote without leaving their parked cars. A few retirement centers have sent their activity busses. Because each poll worker can process just one voter at a time, a twelve-seater bus can take quite a while to clear.

Once the official closing time for each day’s polling has passed, the voting enclosure gets quieter. As the last few voters complete their ballots, it becomes almost totally still. As soon as the final vote has been tabulated and the final voter exits, a flurry of activity erupts—reconciling the ballot totals for the day, cleaning out voting booths, tidying work areas, preparing supplies for the succeeding day’s balloting.     

This coming week will be the final week of early voting. Then a two-day respite before a very long election day on November 8.  About 22% of the eligible voters in our county have taken advantage of early voting so far, enough to relieve some of the pressure when election day finally arrives.