In Wake County at least, early voting is up over the same period a year ago, a promising sign that a presidential election marked by extremist rhetoric from Republican Donald Trump and the candidacy of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who would be the first woman elected president, has stirred voters. North Carolina’s close gubernatorial race between incumbent Pat McCrory, a Republican, and Democrat Roy Cooper also may be contributing to the interest.
This is good news for the republic, of course, though the breakdown of the final vote will be interesting in terms of measuring the interest of “millennials,” who are sometimes labeled as apathetic — one hopes, unfairly — and other groups such as minorities and women, who may have a strong impact on the outcome in North Carolina and elsewhere.
Early voting has been increasingly popular, though not with Republicans, who have used their control of the General Assembly to try to curb early voting as part of a general voter suppression effort most notably, and unfortunately, marked by a proposed Voter ID law.
Still, there are lines at early voting sites and there will be more sites open in Wake as the process continues. Early voting obviously is advantageous to working people and others for whom an Election Day trip to the polls might be inconvenient, particularly if turnout is large and lines are long. The truth is, rather than curb early voting sites and hours, lawmakers should expand them. Democracy is enhanced by more participation, and the results of an election, when more people participate, are thus more meaningful.