MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - Eyewitness News got the first look at the preps under way for Election Day in Mecklenburg County. On Thursday, workers started testing voting machines, and Eyewitness News has also learned about some changes to help combat the crowds expected at the polls.
For the next couple of weeks, employees will spend their days making sure Mecklenburg County's voting machines are ready come election time.
The voting machines will go through two rounds of testing. The first phase, which started Thursday, includes employees running test ballots in all the precincts. During the second phase, there will be a physical test of the machines, making sure they have paper, loaded ballots and are in perfect working order before they are delivered to the voting sites.
"Making sure the votes are right, that's why it's so important,” said Mecklenburg Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson.
Dickerson expects many of those votes will be cast during early voting from Oct. 18 through Nov. 3.
"We recognized in 2008 there (were) some long lines at early voting sites,” Dickerson said.
So this year, the Board of Elections will add two new early voting sites, at Rameses Temple in north Charlotte and at the Mint Hill Library. The sites will be open weekdays from 11 a.m. -7 p.m. and also on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
"The additional sites that the Board of Elections is adding, I think, is a function of the knowledge that early voting is becoming more and more and more popular," said Martha Kropf, a voting trends expect and a political science professor at UNC Charlotte. "When early voting gets going, we'll get a really good indication of what turnout is going to be like for this 2012 election."
Kropf expects this year's turnout to be impressive, but said it likely won't match the record numbers we saw during the 2008 presidential election.
"I'm predicting lower than 2008 because that excitement from 2008 just isn't here right now. It just isn't the state. But it's not that if both sides aren't trained to turn out their voters," said Kropf.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections said around 67 percent, or 420,000 people, came to the polls in 2008.
Officials estimate between 60 percent to 67 percent turnout this year.