For NC State student body president Melanie Flowers, walking down a flight of stairs from her Student Government office to the grand ballroom of Talley Student Union to participate in her first national and statewide election couldn’t be easier.
Or more special.
The senior from Cary plans to be among the first to cast her vote when the Wake County early voting location opens on Thursday morning at Talley, as North Carolina’s 17-day early voting period begins. It’s the longest voting period in state history.
“To be able to place my vote in person makes it feel more real,” says the communication major with a concentration in public relations. “COVID-19 has made so many things virtual, but I have the ability to be here in Talley on a daily basis and to physically cast my ballot will be a great action.”
Students, faculty, staff and any Wake County registered voter can cast ballots at Talley. On-site registration is available during the early voting period for those who missed the Oct 9 voting registration deadline. For more information, visit the Pack the Polls website.
Polls are open daily, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first two Saturdays, 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 31.
For a student-elected representative like Flowers, voting is leading.
“Voting is important because it’s a way people can hold their elected officials accountable,” she says. “And if you’re voting, then you at least have a pin on the map to make sure elected officials are taking your concerns, ideas and identities into account when they’re forming policies or supporting policies.”
This year, all student-athletes at Atlantic Coast Conference schools will have no scheduled activities – games, practice or mandatory workouts – on election day, Nov. 3, to give them the necessary break to cast their votes.
That’s an additional incentive for excited first-time voter Elissa Cunnane, an All-American and All-ACC center on the NC State women’s basketball team. She says the team plans to vote together at Talley during the early voting period.
“I was really young when I came to school,” says the junior from Summerfield, N.C. “So exercising my right to vote is something that makes me feel older, more like an adult. And it’s just something that is important, because during the last presidential election only about half of NC State’s students voted.”
Chancellor Randy Woodson remembers casting his first vote as a sophomore at the University of Arkansas. It was not long after the minimum voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 and he turned his excitement that cycle into a lifelong habit.
“I voted my first time while I was in school,” he says, “and in every election since then.”