Published 8:09 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

By Staff
Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County, said it best when she described this election cycle’s no-excuse, one-stop voting period as “amazing.”
That amazing occurrence took place at the local, state and national levels as millions of voters took advantage of the early voting period this election cycle.
As of Saturday, 11,888 Beaufort County voters had marked ballots early, either in person at early voting sites or by absentee ballots. That means one-third of Beaufort County’s registered voters exercised their right to vote before Election Day. Absentee ballots were due at boards of elections offices at 5 p.m. Monday.
In North Carolina, nearly 2.6 million voters, or about 40 percent of the state’s registered voters, had voted early during this election cycle. Gary Bartlett, the director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections said the impressive voter turnout during the early voting period, which began Oct. 16 and concluded Saturday, helped ease worries about an overwhelming Election Day at the polls. State elections officials initially estimated that three million people would vote today, but they revised that amount to two million people in the wake of so many voters taking advantage of early voting.
Bartlett estimates that 74 percent of the state’s registered voters will have voted in this election by the end of today. That estimate is significantly higher than the 64 percent of registered voters who marked ballots in 2004.
When many voters decide to mark their ballots early, that can be taken as a sign there is plenty of interest in this election. That interest, for the most part, likely is centered on the historic race between the Obama-Biden ticket and the McCain-Palin ticket. If the Obama-Biden ticket prevails today at the nation’s polling places, the United States of America will have its first black president. If the McCain-Palin ticket prevails today, the nation will have its first female vice president.
So, a historic turnout of voters taking advantage of early voting will have participated in a historic election. There has been speculation by some political pundits and voting-rights groups that overall voter turnout for this election could be the highest for a presidential election in many years, as many as 100 years.
The record-breaking numbers of voters marking ballots early also can be taken as a signal that many voters are concerned with who will lead the nation during the next four years as it deals with the war against terror and an economy that is not well. It can be taken as a sign that voters are not happy with the status quo and want changes, a theme that has been prevalent this election cycle.
Hopefully, the large voter turnout for early voting is a sign that more and more voters are taking an interest in who governs them, from the local level to the state level to the national level. Perhaps the days of more registered voters staying home than going to the polls on Election Day are fast disappearing.
When it comes to voting, the method really does not matter. What matters is that people vote.
For those registered voters who have not voted this election cycle, there’s time to do so today. Exercising helps keep a body healthy. Exercising one’s right to vote helps keep the nation healthy.