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Early Voting Reductions Lead to Long Lines in Charlotte

Early voted started yesterday in North Carolina, and some voters in Charlotte have been met with some pretty long lines. The feisty election has produced quite a bit of enthusiasm, which may be producing more turnout than workers were expecting. But, the state also slashed early voting locations and hours and eliminated straight ticket voting, which means there are fewer polling places and it takes longer to vote.

Those who did wait in lines in Charlotte took to Twitter to tell their tales.

Depending on your perspective, the long lines were either a shining ray of democracy in action:

...or God playing a cruel prank:

Brianna Smith, a theater artist based in Charlotte, tried to vote yesterday at Morrison Regional Library, but left because of the line. Kristin Mavromatis with the Macklenburg County Board of Elections said the lines are long at this location because it is the only polling location in the immediate area. Last year, prior to the cuts, they had four. When Smith returned today, she found yet another line:

She told Electionland she was only in line for about 30 minutes today, and that once she was inside the voting process was very efficient. Despite the wait, she said spirits were high.

Mavromatis said the state's decision to cut voting locations during the first week of early voting in half has led to some problems in the Charlotte area. She said the cuts have caused "a logistical nightmare for my front desk staff, for the citizens of Mecklinburg County.” But, she said, very long lines were only a problem in a small number of locations.

The county presently has 10 locations open instead of the usual 22. The remaining 12 will open next week. The decision has created confusion for many voters, who Mavromatis said have shown up to polling locations to wait in line even though they don't open until next week. "They didn’t advertise it, there are no signs, and yet one person got in line and then all of a sudden there is a line," she said.

She also said voters standing in long lines were hesitant to drive to other locations only minutes away, even if they were told there was no line. “People called me saying that we were disenfranchising them. Now there is this culture where people think if they leave their vote won’t be counted," she said, blaming the media for promoting GOP Candidate Donald Trump's position that the elections are rigged. "You all keep reporting that we all rig elections and we are untrustworthy instead of defending elections," she said. Even calling her to inquire about long lines was proof of our bias, she told me.

For the record, ProPublica's Electionland blog has repeatedly reported over the last few days that Donald Trump's accusations are wrong and that American elections are sound. For proof, see here, here, here and here, and pretty much anything we have ever tweeted.

Several tweeters faced long lines at the University City Regional Library location. Mavromatis said she was not surprised by this, as there have always been long lines at this location because only 10 voting stations fit in the space and because "Everyone goes there, it’s a party. It’s a social event," she said. The lines you face at this location are not, she said, indicative of the wait you will see elsewhere.

Aaron DiDonato is a UNC-Charlotte student who spent 2.5 hours in line at that location. While he waited, he squeezed in his political science homework - a set of quizzes for his American politics class called, coincidentally, "The Mass Media and the Political Agenda." He did get it in on time, he tells Electionland.

When you in line to vote, but you have American Politics homework due at 12:15... #FDT #MakeAmerica400Again

A photo posted by Aaron DiDonato (@aarondidonato) on

The head of UNC-Charlotte's political science department, Greg Weeks, himself was standing in line at the same location (though DiDonato says he's never taken his class) and ended up waited two hours to vote:

Weeks says he's had similar problems at this location before. "I knew the lines were long," he said, "but I was surprised it lasted two hours." He says North Carolina lacks the commitment to ensure popular voting places have enough space and enough polling stations. "We feel we are the beacon of democracy, but in a lot of ways we do not run elections as well as we might," he said.

Here are a few other Charlotte voters who found themselves stuck in a long line:

This voter told Electionland he waited 35 minutes:

And Gina waited just over an hour to vote, but at least she had some live music!

Correction, Oct. 21: We have replaced an embedded tweet in this post that misidentified a location.

About Electionland

ProPublica’s Electionland project covers problems that prevent eligible voters from casting their ballots during the 2020 elections. Our coalition of newsrooms around the country are investigating issues related to voter registration, pandemic-related changes to voting, the shift to vote-by-mail, cybersecurity, voter education, misinformation, and more.

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