With the start of early voting for the May primary election, many counties are expanding their voting locations and times to adjust to the new requirements under the 2013 VIVA Law, or the Voter Information Verification Act.
As recently reported, Mecklenburg County will offer more than six times as many early voting hours as it did in the 2010 primary election. But as a result of the VIVA Law, those hours will come during fewer days.
In some elections, voters have overwhelmingly expressed their interest in casting ballots early. In both the 2008 and 2012 general elections, 56% of the state’s voters cast their ballots before Election Day.
But what about voters’ enthusiasm for casting early ballots in primary elections? Traditionally, these elections have a much lower turnout. In 2012’s primary election, 35% of registered voters cast ballots, while in 2010 (the last mid-term election year), only 14% of registered voters cast ballots in that primary.
Among all voters casting ballots in the May 2010 primary, 80% did so on the May primary election day, with 19% casting them before the election.
And while voters in the Democratic primary were more likely than those in the GOP primary to cast early ballots, it wasn't by much.
In Mecklenburg County, the 2010 primary election saw only 5% of all ballots cast early, either absentee in-person or absentee by mail. The overwhelming majority, 95%, came on Election Day in May.
In comparison, Mecklenburg’s 2012 primary election saw 18% of the ballots cast early, either in-person or by mail.
In primary elections where there is little attention paid by an overwhelming majority of voters, along with the fact there is little information given to voters by the candidates themselves (unlike in a presidential election), it may seem like voters want the convenience and availability of casting their ballots when they want to.
The true test following the May 6th election is: will the voters really take advantage of early voting? If past elections are any indicator, the standard response will most likely be: Wait, there was an election in May?