The rush to vote early is a phenomenon that has shattered early turnout records across critical Mecklenburg County, battleground North Carolina and the nation, driven both by Democratic enthusiasm and a pandemic that has claimed more than 217,000 American lives.
The pandemic is the dismal overlay of the campaign, but it has inspired record levels of early voting.
By the end of Thursday, North Carolina had accepted 333,466 in-person ballots, up from 166,000 on the first day of in-person voting in 2016.
Shaken by coronavirus and thinking about what comes before and after this year of isolation and blame, every one of more than a dozen line dwellers interviewed during the first six hours of in-person voting said they chose to show up because they worried that mailed-in ballots could get lost.
One after another, they spoke of a sense of urgency driving them to the polls on the first day, even though they can vote early and in-person through Halloween.
“What I tell my kids is, there’s people that look like us that have died for this right,” said Manny Golfe, 44, a commercial banker who waited almost two hours to vote for Democrat Joe Biden.
But she said the act of casting a ballot on the first day was a civil way of making her statement on issues that have strained relationships, even decades-long friendships, throughout the Trump presidency.
This time, Stirling said, she set her alarm early Thursday, ate some Cheerios and got in line at 7 a.m.
Inside, she said, each person got one enveloped in sterile plastic to cast a “touchless” ballot in line with pandemic safety.
“I just wanted to make sure that my vote was counted this time,” she said, before casting a vote for Biden.
About 100 miles southwest, Trump, the world’s most famous recently-recovered COVID patient, appeared at a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina
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