Early voting is already popular -- maybe too popular. Three years ago the presidential election produced long lines of early voters across Mecklenburg County.
So Michael Dickerson, who heads Charlotte's Board of Elections, said he wants to expand before the next presidential race.
“More people that we have that early vote say, 'Gosh, that's the only way I want to do it anymore. I love that early voting,’" he said
But Dickerson doesn’t want to expand early voting just by finding more libraries to use as polling places. He wants to step outside the box. Way outside. Dickerson plans to pitch an idea later this month to use retails stores and other non-traditional locations for voting.
“Like a shopping mall, like a Target, Wal-Mart, something of that nature that's generally all over town,” he said.
The idea of using stores as polling places may sound radical, but to some voters it sounds like a way to make voting more convenient than ever.
“I think you'll get more people to vote the more places you have,” said voter Nancy Harper.
Melinda Harper, also a Charlotte voter, added, “I think it's a great idea because it's so convenient as often as people shop and use these services.”
There's one big sticking point in Dickerson's idea. Right now it's against the law. The state only allows voting in publicly funded buildings, which is why libraries are used. Dickerson said he could expand by using the government center and perhaps Central Piedmont Community College’s six campuses which are spread around the county, but what he really wants is the law changed.
State Senator Malcolm Graham says he's willing to help.
“We need to make sure voting is a lot more effective and efficient for voters and that we provide ample opportunity for those who want to vote to cast their vote,” he said.
Graham said it would take unanimous support from Mecklenburg County's delegation to get anything accomplished before next fall's presidential election.
But with over 350,000 voters expected to take part, Dickerson wants to find some way to make early voting bigger and better -- maybe even at a store near you.
Last month more than 23,000 people took advantage of early voting. The Board of Elections said it expects that number to increase dramatically in next year's presidential race.