More than 10,000 voters cast ballots early ahead of Tuesday’s municipal elections in Raleigh and Cary, setting a Wake County record for early voting in odd-year, municipal elections. The number more than tripled the early-voting total from two years ago.
According to the Wake County Board of Elections, 10,144 people voted early in Raleigh and Cary. It’s unclear how many votes were cast for Raleigh and how many for Cary.
The Raleigh City Council earlier this year requested expanded early-voting opportunities in hopes of increasing voter turnout. In 2015, 3,047 people cast ballots early at the Wake County Board of Elections office in downtown Raleigh. That was a drop from 5,100 in 2013 and 5,700 in 2011.
This year, there were five additional early-voting sites throughout Raleigh for four days, and the early-voting period was a week longer.
There are other factors that could have contributed to higher turnout, including crowded Raleigh City Council races and a heated mayoral race. Incumbent unaffiliated candidate Nancy McFarlane is facing challengers Paul Fitts, a Republican, and Charles Francis, a Democrat.
Raleigh and Cary are the only two Wake County municipalities that vote in October. They are also the only ones that use a nonpartisan election-runoff system, which is one of four election models in North Carolina. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, a runoff is held in November. This year, that would be Nov. 7.
Most municipalities across the state hold elections on what is traditionally known as Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
Adding the new early-voting sites last week cost Raleigh $47,600. That figure would rise to about $95,200 if a runoff election is needed, according to a city budget analyst.
Among early voters in Wake County, 63.5 percent were registered Democrats, 11.4 percent were registered Republicans, and 24.9 percent were unaffiliated with any political party.
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan
Raleigh voters on Tuesday will elect a mayor and seven City Council members. Cary voters will elect three Town Council members. Durham residents will vote in a nonpartisan primary, and the top vote-getters for mayor and three City Council seats will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Wake and Durham counties.