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Early voting in Mecklenburg County 

Ronald Smith stood in line at the Beatties Ford Road library waiting to cast his vote. He was toward the end of the line near the sidewalk, but he didn't mind.

"I have to work on Election day," he said.

Smith is one of the more than 107,000 people, as of the polls' close Sunday, who braved long lines to cast his vote early. And the rush to vote before Nov. 4 doesn't seem to be letting up.

The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections knew this summer that this election was going to be different. For the first time since One Stop Early Voting began in Mecklenburg County, there are 20 places open where people can vote, elections director Michael Dickerson said. "Usually it's about 11 or 12," Dickerson said.

The board decided to have the 20 sites open all on the same day, which was another first. "We usually have just one site open the first day and open the other sites over the next three weeks," he said.

The sites have seen business all day, according to Dickerson, and no problems with elections equipment or ballots have been reported. Early voting in other states haven't been so lucky. A few machines in Florida malfunctioned when early voting began Oct. 20, the New York Post reported.

So far, Mecklenburg voters have only had to deal with long lines, but many voters, such as Smith, were unperturbed. Smith said he thinks lines will be much longer on Election Day and the resulting waits will keep people away from the polls. "It's a good thing for me to come out and vote," Smith said. "But I was surprised to see this many people out here this early."

First-time N.C. voters Alourde Stephsort thought voting early seemed like a good option until she found herself standing in line for 45 minutes. Fortunately, she'd taken the day off work in preparation. She said she was going to stay in line as long as it took. "People need a change, like I do," she said.

Local Democrats and Republican leaders also seem satisfied with the early voting process and the numbers of people exercising their right to vote.

"I know there are a lot of Republicans voting. We had a specific push for early voting via an e-mail campaign," said Lee Teague, chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party. "At the early voting sites that are in Republican areas, there is very good turn out."

Teague said he's never seen this much participation in early voting. He's heard that 50 percent of votes cast in this election will come from early voters, but he doubts that will prove true.

Democrats say the numbers are looking good for them. "We have really been making a push for people to vote early because you never know what's going to happen on Election Day," said Michael Evans, a Mecklenburg County Democratic Party activist and former chairman. "Larry Kissell lost in 2006 simply because of bad weather on Election Day."

Evans said that numbers he saw from last Thursday and Friday showed more Democrats voted than Republicans and it seems as if that trend is going to continue, despite the long lines.

Evans suggests that people vote on rainy days if they want to avoid long lines.

He said that there is a lot of enthusiasm about this election that he hasn't seen since the McGovern campaign in 1972. "We're certainly hoping for a better result this time," Evans said. "And people are just frustrated. Eight years of our country going down the tubes, we have to turn that around."

While neither party has said there have been problems at the polls regarding voter fraud or anything of the like, they do accuse the other party of causing problems.

"There have been the regular Republican shenanigans. They've been sending someone to tell the people standing in line that they need ID that they're not required to produce," Evans said. "But that's standard operating fare for them."

On the GOP side, Teague said the Democrats are being very aggressive at the polls this year.

"We get reports all the time of signs being stolen from polling places," he said. "Decorum seems to be breaking down."

Early Voting INFO

• Early voting ends on Nov. 1. Voters who aren't registered can register and vote early at the early voting sites. Voters must provide one of the following forms of identification to register:

1) Valid photo identification

2) N.C. Driver License

3) Passport

4) Utility bill

5) Bank statement

6) Government check

7) Paycheck

8) Other government documents.

Hours for early voting are:

Oct. 16-31 (Weekdays) 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Nov. 1 (Saturday) 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.

For locations to vote early, log on to www.meckboe.org.

Source: Mecklenburg County Board of Elections

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