More Than 3,000 Cast Ballots in Early Days of Duke's One-Stop Voting Site

Number could exceed 2008 vote total

Graduate student Tessa Gurney gets her ballot Wednesday at the early voting site in Duke's West Union Building.  Photo by Steve Hartsoe.
Graduate student Tessa Gurney gets her ballot Wednesday at the early voting site in Duke's West Union Building. Photo by Steve Hartsoe.

T.C. Whittaker will take all the conveniences he can get.

Not only is he a busy student at Duke's Fuqua School of Business, he's also the first-time father of a 9-month-old son.

Duke's one-stop early voting station in the West Union is just what he needs.

"There are no lines," he said after voting Wednesday morning with his wife, Maggie, while holding young son Campbell on his shoulder. "I can work it into my schedule."

The Whittakers are among the more than 3,135 people who have voted on campus since the site opened Oct. 18. At that rate, the number of votes cast there will exceed the total (roughly 9,300) ballots cast when Duke first established a one-stop voting site during the 2008 general election.

This year's voting station will remain open in the Old Trinity Room until Nov. 3. On-campus voting also was also available for the May 2012 primary that included the controversial Amendment One.

Durham County residents and Duke students can vote at the site if they are a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of Durham County for 30 days by the date of the election. Voters must be at least 18 years old, although individuals who are 17 can register and vote if they will be 18 by the date of the General Election, on Nov. 6 this year.

Eligible voters who are unregistered can register to vote at the station, then cast their ballot. Also, students registered in another state can register at the site and vote at the same time.

Duke is one of 16 North Carolina college campuses with early voting sites, according to the State Board of Elections. North Carolina Central University also hosts a one-stop voting site on its Durham campus.

"The ease of access is one of most important things for college students," said senior Chloe Rockow, deputy vice-chair of the Duke College Republicans.

She said campus Republicans didn't have as strong of a get-out-the vote effort as campus Democrats because their ranks are much smaller. But the option for students to register at the site, then vote "is really helping us," she said.

Sophomore Adrienne Harreveld, co-president of Duke Democrats, also praised the early voting option.

"I can't imagine what it would be like if there wasn't an early voting site on campus," she said. "Then we'd have to plan out how to drive people to sites because students often don't have cars."

After Nov. 3, students will have to vote off campus, said sophomore Derek Rhodes, vice president of Durham and regional affairs at Duke Student Government, which played a major role in in bringing the site to Duke.

"This means organizing rides and finding enough time on Election Day between classes, which may deter students from actually voting," Rhodes said. "This is why early voting and the on-campus voting site are so important -- it's the most convenient tool to keep students engaged. It's the reason why we worked this summer to ensure that there would be a voting site."

Nationally, early voting has changed the very nature of elections by giving Democrats a tool to better compete with Republicans' traditional late-spending advantage, said Michael Munger, professor of political science, economics and public policy.

"Early voting allows the Democrats to exploit their advantage in 'ground game,' or local organizing," said Munger, the Libertarian candidate for North Carolina governor in 2008.  

In several states, more people will vote early than will vote on Election Day. On college campuses, Munger said, early voting will create thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of new votes because people can conveniently cast their ballots rather than try to find time -- and their voting place -- on Election Day.

"This is also a benefit for the Democrats," Munger said, "because college students who vote are proportionately likely to vote Democrat."