Early voting starts at 8 a.m. Thursday in Forsyth County and across North Carolina, giving voters 15 days to cast their ballots before the general election on Nov. 8.
New voters can also register and cast their ballots during early voting.
Election officials here are expecting big crowds on the first and last days of early voting, and are warning people about the heavy construction near the Forsyth County Government Center, where many like to cast their votes during early voting.
“Due to the courthouse construction, there are road closures and limited parking at the Government Center,” said Tim Tsujii, the county elections director. “We strongly encourage citizens to take advantage of the other early voting sites. We don’t want people to be discouraged by the limited parking and road closures.”
The county has 12 places to vote early, including the main elections office downtown. And by visiting the home page of the elections office at forsyth.cc/Elections, one can click on a purple banner that calls up a map of the county with wait times shown for all 12 early voting locations.
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“That will help voters go to the next closest location that might have a shorter wait,” Tsujii said.
North Carolina has a hard-fought contest for the U.S. Senate in this midterm election, and that’s likely to drive up turnout. Tsujii said that during the 2018 midterms there was no U.S. Senate race, yet turnout was still 53%. Tsujii thinks turnout in Forsyth this fall could reach 60%, which works out to about 162,000 voters.
That’s still 40,000 fewer than the number who voted here in 2020, during the most recent presidential election. That year, turnout was 74%.
Tsujii said another tactic for voting quickly is to vote mid-week, in late morning or early afternoon, but he recommends avoiding lunchtime.
People who want to both register and vote should bring a North Carolina driver’s license, or another photo identification or official document such as a bank statement or utility bill that proves the address. College students can use a college photo identification plus proof of residence.
In addition to the contest between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd for the U.S. Senate seat — there are Green and Libertarian candidates as well — all county voters will choose among seven candidates vying for three at-large seats on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education. Three Democrats, three Republicans and a Libertarian are in the running.
Incumbent Jim O’Neill, a Republican, and challenger Denise Hartsfield, a Democrat, are in the running for the office of district attorney, but there are other countywide contests:
Incumbent Democrat Bobby Kimbrough and GOP challenger Ernie Leyba are running for sheriff, and two non-incumbents, Democrat Dan Besse and Republican Terri Mrazek, are seeking the at-large seat on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. All county voters will also see the same choices among many judicial contests.
Then, depending on where they live, voters will be picking among contestants to represent districts that include only parts of the county. These include contests for state house and senate, the U.S. House, school board and county board of commissioners.
Two municipalities, King and Rural Hall, will have issues relating to alcohol sales on the ballot.
King voters will decide on whether to have ABC stores, and in a separate ballot, whether to allow mixed drink sales as well as on- and off-premises sales of beer and unfortified wine. King straddles Forsyth and Stokes counties, but all King voters will get a chance to weigh in on the matters.
In Rural Hall, voters will decide on mixed drink sales and the on- and off-premises sale of beer and wine.
Tsujii said election workers started setting up the polling places on Monday, and that six to eight election workers will be needed at each site.
Voters will not be required to show identification, and can vote by touch screen if they desire, although the normal procedure is to mark a paper ballot that has ovals to fill in by the voter’s choice.
“We prefer that voters use the pens provided,” Tsujii said. “What we want to avoid is marking a ballot with a Sharpie or a felt tip that will bleed through the ballot. And it would be difficult to scan if it is not in black ink.”
A voter can ask for a replacement ballot up until the time it is put into the tabulator, but after that it is too late for a do-over, Tsujii said. Tsujii cautioned against attempting to write in a name other than in the two contests where write-ins are allowed:
“The scanner will not pick it up, and it might cause an overvote for that contest,” he said. An overvote — voting for more candidates that a contest allows — won’t be counted by the tabulators.