Wilmington, N.C. -- My colleague's first words to me this morning were, "Boy, this was the best election experience ever thanks to early voting! It took me only 3 minutes to get in and out this morning at Parsley Elementary." I am wondering, can this be? Ernie continued, "I was there at 8:00 am. I filled out my ballot and I was out of there."
I had to check it out myself. I stopped at the Obama headquarters a little after 11:00 am. It was not busy since most of the volunteers were congregating at the staging locations closer to their homes. There were a few people already cleaning stuff out of the closets and off shelves. They were positively giddy. "Can you believe it's finally here? We are going to celebrate tonight!" Volunteer Betsy said, "I know he will win, but we want to win in North Carolina."
There was a police car parked outside. Officer Donna Smith was in the car, so I asked her if there had been a threat called in. "No," she said, "We are just keeping an eye on you. Just to keep you safe today." As we were talking, a white Jeep Cherokee drove by. It has a huge sign on top that reads, "NO BAMA! Barack Hussein Obama, Islamic Socialist for President?" Officer Smith said, "See? That guy's been circling around this block." I told her, "I am so glad you are here." I ran inside and get her the biggest muffin that I can find.
Then I drove to a couple of polling stations, one in a very conservative precinct and the other in a mixed precinct. The first was virtually empty. The schools were closed today, so the schools were even emptier than I imagined. I found a couple of Obama volunteers holding up signs at Alderman Elementary. They were very excited just like those at the headquarters. A gentleman came out and said, "I have tickets for the inauguration." He had plastered himself with stickers of Kay Hagan, the Democratic candidate for Senate, Julia Boseman, NC Senate candidate, and Jonathan Barfield, the only Democratic candidate for New Hanover County Commissioner. This was one guy that was really sure.
Then I went to the Arab Shrine Club. It too was empty. There were cars parked outside, but the parking lot was far from being full. There were more people holding signs outside then were there voters visible from outside. I talked to James Gallagher, a volunteer for Mike Lee, who is running for N.C. Senate against Julia Boseman. He said that there was a long line at the beginning of the day, but after about 8:30 am, everybody cleared out. He estimated that the longest wait was maybe one hour. As I was about to leave, Kristen Luikens, president of Democratic Women of New Hanover County, drove up. She said, "There were about 700 people that went through here so far."
The huge lines that were anticipated have not yet materialized. The polls will remain open until 7:30 pm, so it is likely that there will be a wave of voters who will vote after work. But until then, the polling places are, I would say, pretty empty. Early voting has definitely worked in getting people to the polls even before election day. 66.2% of total number of voters reached in 2004 voted during early voting in North Carolina.