Winston-Salem early voting starts strong with 174 votes cast at polling site

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Early voting for the Winston-Salem Municipal Primary began Thursday at the Forsyth County Government Center with strong attendance compared to the previous municipal primary start.

On the first day of early voting, elections staffers reported that 174 votes were cast. That compares to 42 early votes cast on the first day of early voting in 2009.

Rob Coffman, Forsyth County elections director, noted that this municipal primary has a number of contests.

“So it’s not shocking that we’ve seen an increase,” Coffman said.

A total of 774 votes were cast at the One Stop location in the 2009 primary.

This year’s election cycle will be the last to feature a 17-day early voting window and to allow same day registration. Same day registration allows residents who have lived at their current address for at least 30 days to register and vote on the same day at the One Stop site. That will change next year.

“Most people aren’t really aware of it at all, that there is a change coming, so we really haven’t had any inquiries about it,” Coffman said.

Though the early voting period will be cut by a week, counties will still be required to offer the same total number of early voting hours that it did over the longer period.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week, counties will be required to offer the same cumulative number of early voting hours in presidential election cycles that they offered in 2012 and in midterm elections that they offered in 2010. This can be achieved a few different ways.

“We’ll either have to open additional sites or (offer) additional hours or a combination of both,” Coffman said.

That could require the county to offer Sunday voting, as it has done for the past few even-year elections.

Coffman said it is already difficult for the county to find enough early voting sites. And it could be difficult to extend voting hours at locations such as libraries which have set closing times.

“If we end up wanting to stay there after the normal business hours, we’re going to assume some costs,” Coffman said.