As this year’s election season further heats up going into the fall, voters in the Tar Heel State will soon begin casting their ballots.
Early Voting begins on October 20, and by November 5, will close on the heels of a controversial year for North Carolina, after a federal court of appeals recently struck down a 2013 law which decreased the number of days early voting would be available from 17 days to 10.
The law, which also required voters to show some form of photo identification, was found in the court ruling to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision”.
In response to the ruling, North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse asked fellow Republican county board members to limit the number of early voting hours, and to keep polling sites closed on Sundays—a day, critics point out, which is a popular day for voting among the state’s African American communities.
However, it’s ‘business as usual’ for elections boards in Western North Carolina, as the mountain counties are simply returning to their previous early voting schedules—which weren’t left open on Sundays before. According to Macon County Board of Elections director Debbie George, Early Voting has always been a popular option for voters in her jurisdiction, which saw a 54 percent turnout in 2012.
"There's going to be lines at the polls on election day. In early voting, we have more check-ins, more booths--it's a quicker process. I encourage people to do early voting."
Yet despite its popularity, there are some voters who view early voting as a break from traditional voting on election day.
"The reason I think it's risky is because I think everybody should vote at the same time, and that it be counted right then and there. But I think it's really dangerous to vote at all separate times opposed to having everybody vote in that state, and have everyone vote in that state and having everyone count it in front of you. I feel if we had it to where everyone voted on the same day, that would mean all your bosses would have to do it."
That’s nineteen-year-old Josiah Lovelace, a first-time voter who plans on voting for Gary Johnson in November. Lovelace believes having everyone cast their ballots on the same day keeps everything a little more egalitarian—something he feels is lacking in other areas of American democracy.
However, Lovelace’s 20 year-old comrade Brandi Wimmer, who also plans on voting for the Libertarian presidential candidate, is a little more optimistic.
"I think it's actually really convenient, you know, due to the fact that people are working, some people can't find the time or that day, or there's people that don't even have cars or can't be able to find transportation to go out and elect."
For voters in Western North Carolina who plan to cast their ballots early, officials recommend they consult their local Board of Elections office. While early voting will be held Mondays through Saturdays, there will be some small exceptions in certain remote areas, with different set hours depending on the county, as well as the day of the week.
For more information on the early voting schedules in your county, refer to the list below for the region's boards of elections contact information:
Swain County: 828.4886177
Macon County: 828.349.2034
Jackson County: 828.586.7538
Clay County: 828.389.6812
Cherokee County: 828.837.6670
Graham County: 828.479.7969
Haywood County: 828.452.6633
Henderson County: 828.697.4970
Buncombe County: 828.250.4200