Updated at 5:35 p.m.
Even as they neared the polling booth, Richard and Hayley Berstler said they were still unsure which presidential candidate would get their vote.
“It’s still a mystery,” Hayley Berstler said.
The Jacksonville couple said they watched the first two presidential debates and were still undecided as they waited in an hour-long line at the Onslow County Board of Elections office.
For Richard Berstler, this election was the first time he was voting because he’d always been serving overseas with the Marine Corps. His wife, Hayley, said she’s voted in every election since she registered to vote. Richard Berstler said he served in the Marine Corps 2000-2013.
The couple, both registered Democrats, said they’d decided to vote early because they thought the lines would be shorter.
By 3 p.m. the number of ballots cast was at 599, Rose Whitehurst, Onslow County Board of Elections director, said.
“It’s very, very busy,” she said. “Probably busier than the last presidential election.”
Although busy, the polling location hadn’t experienced any hiccups. It’s been nice and steady, Whitehurst said.
Alyssa Cunningham, 25, of Jacksonville, said she has voted in every election she’s been eligible to, but the lines were too long for her Thursday. She said she had to take lunch to her son in daycare and would probably return next week when additional sites opened in Onslow County.
Her sister-in-law, Courtney Cunningham, 26, of Jacksonville, said she had an appointment at 11 so she couldn’t wait in the lines either; but she planned to return this morning.
Lewis Levy, an Army Vietnam veteran from Maple Hill, said the final presidential debate is what brought him to vote.
“I was undecided before last night,” he said. A registered independent, Levy said he cast his presidential vote toward Hillary Clinton.
Robert Ferris, a Vietnam veteran who served in both the Army and Marine Corps, said he wasn’t going to miss the election. He was expecting to leave the area on Sunday and be gone for a week.
Ferris told The Daily News as he waited in line that he’d voted in every election since 1967 when he turned 21. Registered as a Republican for 50 years, Ferris said he’d registered as independent in recent years and planned to vote Donald Trump for president.
Ninety-year-old Leonard Doherty and his 88-year-old wife, Miriam, were first in line when Early Voting commenced Thursday in Onslow County.
“Those other people have been in there too long,” Doherty said, referring to Clinton. The Richlands couple said they voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Martha Ann Ingle cast the 22nd ballot shortly after the poll opened. The Jacksonville resident who cast her first vote in North Carolina in 2008 said she supports Clinton because “she wants to get people in school and into college and help low-income people.” Ingle said she watched all three presidential debates and felt Clinton beat Trump in each event.
Turnout was high in neighboring Carteret County as well, where 2,250 people had cast ballots by 5 p.m. Thursday, according to Carteret County Board of Elections officials.
Daily News columnist Mike McHugh contributed to this report.
As early voting began in Onslow County, the line wrapped around hallways as voters, some still undecided, prepared to cast their votes.
Rose Whitehurst, director of the county’s Board of Elections, said early voting was “going good.”
Volunteers set up 17-18 voting stations within the first hours of the polling location’s opening. The location also had curbside voting for those with a medical condition. Curbside voting, she said, was only permitted to those who had signed an affidavit.
Voters in Onslow County can vote at the Onslow County Board of Elections office, 4024 Richlands Highway in Jacksonville, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through Nov. 5. Beginning Oct. 27, Onslow County residents can also vote between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Jacksonville Commons Recreation Center, located at 100 Recreation Lane in Jacksonville; the Swansboro Rotary Club, located at 1104 Main St. Ext. in Swansboro; and the Verona Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, located at 3876 Wilmington Hwy in Jacksonville.
For more information, visit OnslowCountyNC.gov/Elections/.