by Sandi Huddleston-Edwards

HUNTERSVILLE – To vote or not to vote is not the question. It’s when to vote.

Dolores Booth, a Board of Elections volunteer, said the North County Regional Library in Huntersville has averaged 725-775 voters per day since early voting opened on Oct. 18.

“As of Oct. 25, it was reported to us that over 80,000 voters have cast their ballots in Mecklenburg County.”

Early voting has become increasingly important in the outcomes of elections, said Dr. Eric Heberlig, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at UNC Charlotte.

“Until the 2008 presidential election, the consensus was that early voting did not affect elections. Many regular voters just voted early rather than on election day,” he said. “In 2008, the Obama campaign made early voting and same-day registration a core part of its strategy to get irregular voters to the polls. Obama actually got fewer votes than (candidate John) McCain on Election Day, but still won North Carolina because he was so far ahead in early votes. So it can matter if the candidates build a strategy to make it matter.”

And until Nov. 6, the electorate will be inundated by candidates’ daily tactics aimed at getting votes through television commercials, campaign calls and political ads.

Huntersville’s Dan Nelson took advantage of having a day off and stopped by the North Mecklenburg Public Library to vote Oct. 26.

“I thought I’d come today to avoid the lines. Besides, I’m getting tired of all the publicity, ads and commercials. I want to get it over with.”

His wife, Cheryl, agreed.

“Politicians used to be on site and conduct more town meetings, but there hasn’t been a lot of that going on. We don’t know them because they don’t help us know them.”

The couple said a 45-minute wait to vote wasn’t an inconvenience.

Gladys Hardnett, of Cornelius, said she always votes early. Being disabled, she needs to come when the lines are shorter and not stand for long periods of time.

“I like the atmosphere and the opportunity to talk to different people,” she said. “I’ll continue until I can’t early vote. Then I’ll use absentee ballot.”

Convenience remains a key factor in early voting.

“I came to get it out of the way and keep the working public from being bogged down,” Huntersville resident Sheila Skelton said.

“People who work are more confined, but I have more opportunity to get it over. Besides, I wanted to listen to all three debates and wait closer to the end of the early voting period before making a decision and voting.”

Skelton’s mother, Doris Wilson, is handicapped, elderly and “moves slower these days.” She depends on her daughter to get her to the polls. Skelton added, “Early voting makes it easier for her.”

Also motivated by convenience, Huntersville’s Steve Bailey said, “I usually feel like early voting is quicker, but this is the longest line I’ve seen. I’ve never stood in line before to vote early.”

Bailey said he has voted in every eligible election – at the polls or with absentee ballot while in the military.

“My wife is a stay-at-home mom. It feels good to vote and start my weekend off right. I’ll go home today and care for our daughter, so my wife can come and vote. It would be tougher if we both had to vote on Nov. 6.”

Bill Gray, formerly of Florida, is a decided voter who has lived in Huntersville since 1994.

“It feels good to get it behind you and feel a sense of accomplishment. We’re all receiving 6-10 telephone calls each day from candidates. My phone started ringing this morning at 8,” he said. “With the country so partisan in views, more people may be motivated to vote than usual, so there may be a record turnout. Early voting helps me avoid the long lines on Nov. 6.”

Dolores Booth concurred.

“Some people come, see the long lines and come back when it’s more convenient for them or when the lines are shorter. People come early to vote because it takes longer on Election Day,” she said. “If folks are going to be out of town and didn’t obtain absentee ballots, they can still vote. Who knows? It may be raining on election day, so why not come early?”