ASHEVILLE, NC - OCTOBER 15:  Susan Presson, a volunteer with the Buncombe County Democratic Party, speaks with voters waiting in line to vote at a polling place at the Dr. Wesley Grant Senior Center on October 15, 2020 in Asheville. Record numbers came out for in-person, early voting. State officials expect half of NC's registered voters will have cast ballots by day's end Wednesday. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) People Cast Ballots On First Day Of Early Voting In North Carolina
ASHEVILLE, NC - OCTOBER 15: Susan Presson, a volunteer with the Buncombe County Democratic Party, speaks with voters waiting in line to vote at a polling place at the Dr. Wesley Grant Senior Center on October 15, 2020 in Asheville. Record numbers came out for in-person, early voting. State officials expect half of NC's registered voters will have cast ballots by day's end Wednesday. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

How a divisive partisan election and the coronavirus pandemic are impacting staggering early vote turnout in North Carolina. 

After clocking out of her overnight shift at an injection molding factory shift, Charity Brown headed into the fieldhouse at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex early Tuesday morning to have her say about the future of the country.

Brown, normally an Election Day voter, opted to cast her ballot early this year and was far from alone in that choice. 

By day’s end Wednesday, state election officials expect half of North Carolina’s 7.3 million registered voters will have already voted.

RELATED: Cardinal Votes: Your Guide to Voting in North Carolina in 2020

This staggering early glimpse of voter turnout—with one of every two voters having already cast ballots—is a reflection of two realities of 2020. 

One, that North Carolina is seen as a “must-win” swing state with both Democrats and Republicans battling to get the lion’s share of votes. And then there’s the ongoing threat of the highly contagious novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 225,000 Americans and upended how Election Day is normally conducted.

Both of those realities were factors for Brown deciding to cast her vote early, in an election where she’s most concerned about the sputtering economy and access to affordable health care.  Her son Zaycaious Dixon, a 19-year-old college student at NC A&T, joined her in voting Tuesday. It was a monumental first for him, and an occasion that made his mother proud to witness. 

“I felt like it was something I needed to do,” Dixon said. The election and future of the country has been a hot and frequent topic with his friends, and Dixon was the last in his group of friends to cast a ballot.

The Greensboro mother and son were in and out of their early voting station within a half-hour.

“Come out and vote,” Brown said. “Don’t wait, they get you in and out.”

Early vote numbers surging
Charity Brown and her son Zaycaious Dixon voted Wednesday at an early voting site at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. (Photo by Sarah Ovaska/Cardinal & Pine)

Waits, however, may be somewhat longer this Friday and Saturday as the state heads into the final days of early voting (Early voting ends Oct. 31, check here to see what the hours and locations are in your county).

But, it’s still important to vote, she said, because “every vote counts.”

Indeed, every vote does count, a big reason why so much focus is on North Carolina this year. Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden and their campaign surrogates have been traversing the state, trying to win over voters. Trump is hoping to continue the goals of his presidency, which has been marked by partisan divisiveness and the devastating toll of a pandemic worsened by a fumbled federal response.

Biden is offering a drastically different take, with pledges to return civility to the White House, in addition to comprehensive plans in a response to the pandemic and more.   

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There’s also the high-stakes battle of determining who will serve North Carolinians in the US Senate, Republican Thom Tillis or Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham. The victor may very well determine the balance of power for the US Senate.

And there’s plenty more on the ballot as well. Read Cardinal & Pine’s previous election coverage to catch up.

Finally, make sure you get out and vote. 

There’s still plenty of options of how to, though the clock is ticking. You can hand in an absentee ballot at early voting places, vote and register to vote in-person at early voting sites through Saturday or vote at your assigned precinct on Nov. 3.