Raleigh, NC -- State election officials are asking their county counterparts to find ways to ease long lines at North Carolina's early voting stations.
State elections executive director Gary Bartlett sent a memo Tuesday to directors in all 100 counties urging them to consider changes that will make voting occur more efficiently and alleviate waits as long as two hours at some locations.
A state BOE spokeswoman told WFMY News 2 that as of Wednesday morning, 720,797 people had taken advantage of one-stop early voting. That's well ahead of the 2008 pace, and more than 2 million people are likely to cast their ballots before in-person early voting ends Nov. 3.
Bartlett's memo said county boards should consider extending early voting times and adding weekend days. Such decisions would require unanimous approval by a local board.
Bartlett also said counties should consider redistributing voting booths and handing out sample ballots to people in line.
Long lines are common at the early voting site at Kernersville's Senior Enrichment Center. The Forsyth County Elections Director, Rob Coffman, says he hasn't heard any complaints about the waits. But he's working to trim the lines anyway.
Coffman personally delivered two new voting booths to the senior center location on Wednesday. And he's working to get others up and running at different polling places. Coffman has also shifted some of his staff to other locations. But extending hours and adding additional weekend voting days isn't an option.
"The problem we run in to is we can't have it both ways," Coffman said. "We can't completely staff Election Day and completely staff early voting with the budgetary constraints that we have."
Coffman says there's no way to avoid lines during both early voting and on November 6. He says it costs the county $1 million to run this election, and following some of the state's recommendations would cost money he doesn't have.
"The county commission has pretty much said 'This is what you're getting and that's all you're getting.'"
Forsyth County has scheduled for eight more early voting sites to open up on Monday, a planned move that will mean 15 total early voting locations will be up and running.
The good news is, with so many people voting early, lines on Election Day should be manageable.
The Associated Press/WFMY News 2