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Get ready to vote in WNC

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While the November election might seem like it’s far off, many state and local contests face a competitive field for the primary election on Tuesday May 17th. Early voting starts April 28th.

ONE STOP EARLY VOTING

Early voting will be held April 28 through May 14, 2022. Find your early voting location here.

Election law professor at Duke University Gerry Cohen sits on the Wake County Board of Elections, says that there are a similar number of primary voting locations compared to 2018. But now more polling places will be open later.

“The legislature pretty much mandated that, except in a few very small counties, there be at least 12 weekdays open until 7:30 pm and at least one Saturday,” said Cohen.

The number of polling locations and the times available to vote are different in each county. During early voting, voters may cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county. You can also do same-day registration and vote.

“About 30 counties - in the state of hundred - will have some Sunday voting for the primary and in the sort of Blue Ridge area, Buncombe is the only one with any Sunday voting,” said Cohen.

VOTER REGISTRATION

Check your voter registration status here or update your registration here.

From April 28th to May 14th, you can can register to vote and cast your ballot at a one-stop early voting location.

if you want to cast your ballot on primary election day you must register to vote by April 22nd.

On primary election day, May 17th, registered voters must vote at their assigned polling place in their district. You can find your polling place here.

Recent fraud allegations against former Congressman Mark Meadows have centered around his own voter registration.

Meadows is currently being investigated for voter fraud over an allegation that he never lived at the Scaly Mountain address that he put on his voter registration ahead of the 2020 election.

Director of Macon Board of Elections Melanie Thibault says that she was unaware that Meadows was on their voter rolls. She advises anyone who has questions about voter fraud to get involved with their local election board.

“I would encourage them to get involved with the election process in some way: work at the polls on Election day, work one-stop early voting, attend board meetings (schedule on our website), contact their party chairs,” said Thibault in an email

MAIL-IN BALLOTS

Mail-in ballot are available for anyone. No special circumstance or reason is needed. The deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot is May 10th.

Director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University Chris Cooper says that in 2020 about 20 percent of the ballots were cast via mail.

“I'm very curious to see: Does 2022 sort of look more like it did in 2018, where it was a very small percentage of the electorate? Or did people decide that they liked voting by mail like they did in 2020? And do we see an increase in vote by mail once again in 2022?” said Cooper.

Cooper explains that once you cast a mail-in ballot you cannot vote on election day in-person.

“It is a safe system and once you voted by mail and it's recorded, you can't vote another way,” said Cooper.

Cohen says that he thinks there will be fewer mail-in ballots this year.

“While there's still important health issues, I think there is less concern about voting in-person than there certainly was in pre-vaccine 2020,” said Cohen.

You can also vote curbside on election day if you are unable to enter the voting place without assistance or due to a disability including increased risk of COVID-19.

VOTER TURN OUT

Voter turnout in a non-presidential election year is always lower. However, there are some very competitive races this year that might bring voters out to the polls.

Gerry Cohen points to local sheriffs’ races.

“Typically sheriffs' races in North Carolina - whether it's a Democrat or a Republican - primaries tend to be a big draw, especially in more rural counties,” said Cohen.

Cooper, has his eyes on two races.

“So statewide, clearly the U.S. Senate race for the Republican side is a big messy, competitive field. And then of course in NC-11 it couldn't be more interesting and nationally relevant. We have eight candidates, Madison Cawthorn plus seven challengers running against each other. So I would expect that that kind of competitiveness is going to draw a higher turnout on the Republican side," said Cooper.

This week, NC Sen. Thom Tillis and other Republicans endorsed Senator Chuck Edwards in the primary race following comments that Cawthorn made about sex parties and drugs in Washington.

UNAFFLILIATED VOTERS

As of March 2022, there are 2.5 million unaffiliated voters in North Carolina out of the more than 7.2 million registered voters. Those votes are now the largest constituency in the state - more than Democrats or Republicans.

Cooper explains that these voters will have a lot of power in the primary election.

“So what that means is that these unaffiliated voters have a choice. They don't need to vote in the Democratic or the Republican primary. They can choose the Democratic or Republican primary, and we don't have a good sense of what they're going to decide, but it does make some sense that they might be more likely to choose the R in the primary this time because of the more competitive fields,” said Cooper.

This trend has continued since 2005 as the number of unaffiliated voters across the state has continued to grow. Being unaffiliated to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries instead of being relegated to the party that you belong to.

BPR wants to know your questions for candidates for Asheville Mayor and City Council. What issues matter to you and your community? Leave a voicemail at 828-253-6700 or email us at voices@bpr.org.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.