Voters taking advantage of early voting ahead of May Primary

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Voters in several North Carolina counties are taking advantage of early voting, and Election Boards are seeing stronger than usual numbers.

"We don't want people dictating to us what we can and cannot do, we want a say in our government and whose representing us," a couple who had just voted in Salisbury told WBTV.

"It's time for a change and this is our country and if we don't support it no one else will...and it's fresh on our minds who is running and how they stand and their political affiliations."

In Cabarrus, Iredell, and Rowan Counties, the numbers for the first two days of early voting appear to be running ahead of the 2010 May primary.

By mid afternoon in Salisbury more than 600 people had voted at the Rowan Public Library location.  Votes were also being cast at the South Rowan YMCA and in Rockwell.

"You are probably talking about your very hard core supporters in a partisan race," Dr. Michael Bitzer told WBTV.  "If you know who you're committed to, you want to go ahead and get your ballot in the box and have it counted."

Bitzer is a political scientist, professor of History and Political Science, and Provost at Catawba College in Salisbury.

One thing that may be driving the strong turnout in these three counties is the fact that there are some hotly contested races.

In Cabarrus and Rowan the county commission races are drawing a lot of attention, while in Iredell, a retiring sheriff has left the field open for a number of candidates.

'Incumbents generally win reelection so when you have an open election everybody has their hat in, and that divides an electorate even more," Bitzer added.

The last primary that did not involve a presidential race was four years ago in May, 2010.  At that time early voters made up 19% of the total in North Carolina.

That same year saw 14% of Cabarrus voters going to the polls early, while 20% of Iredell and 21% of Rowan voters voted early.

Mecklenburg County saw only 5% early voting in May of 2010.

In both the 2008 and 2012 general elections, 56% of the state's voters cast their ballots before election day, according to Dr. Bitzer.