Voters cast ballots during shortened early voting time

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Less than a week remains before next Tuesday’s primary election.

Big races are up for grabs, but voters have fewer days to cast their ballots.

Last year, the state legislature passed a controversial law to cut early voting.

Four years ago, the Hal Marshall Center was the only early voting location for the primary.  But it was open for two and a half weeks.

This year, early voting has been cut by a week, but there are a lot more locations available – 13 sites in the county.

“I've got sites stretching from Cornelius to steel creek to Ballantyne to Beatties for all the way to University and Matthews.  More access for voters,” said Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson.

It’s the result of a controversial law that's still raising questions about whether it favors one party over another.

On a cloudy Wednesday, a trickle of voters filed into polling places across Mecklenburg.

“It's going to have a grave impact, a grave impact,” said campaign worker Jay Holman.

Holman is talking about North Carolina's new voter law.  It shortens the early voting period from two and a half weeks before an election to just a week and a half. Mecklenburg has also eliminated Sunday voting, which Democrats, especially African-Americans, have often used to their advantage.

“Historically we've always, local church have always got their vans together, got parishioners together, and we've brought everybody to the polls on Sunday,” Holman said.

In four early voting days counted so far, 6,000 votes have been cast, with more Democrats voting than Republicans.

State Sen. Bob Rucho was a chief supporter of the voting law's changes.

“You still have more locations. It's just a matter of the people willing to come out and take advantage of their right and that is to vote,” Rucho said.

Political Expert Eric Heberlig said Democrats opposing the early voting cutback may still find a way to fight it.

“In the short term, the Democrats are going to use this as a motivating tool to say to voters, ‘Look, the Republicans are trying to make it more difficult for you to vote. We really need to show them,’” Heberlig said.

In the first four days of early voting, Democrats have cast about 2,800 early votes compared to 2,200 for Republicans.

About 1,000 unaffiliated votes have been cast.

It may be the November election, though, before we really see if the cutback in early voting will impact elections.

For more information on voting sites, click here.