RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Wake County election officials said Monday they’re expecting record turnout for the midterm elections as they got a new polling site ready in Raleigh ahead of in-person early voting beginning later this week.

Gary Sims, director of elections for the Wake County Board of Elections, said he’s also mindful of how the environment surrounding elections has changed as security has become an important consideration.

“Now I have a police officer stationed at my office. Who would have thought at a board of elections office you would need a law enforcement officer stationed at your office? But, that’s our new norm right now,” he said. “I don’t think the voters need to be afraid. I don’t think our officials need to be afraid. Our staff, we are very aware of our environment constantly.”

County employees set up a new early voting site at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA on Monday. It’s one of 15 early voting sites across the county this year.

Just before setup began, Sims said election officials met with “security and emergency personnel” as part of the preparation for in-person voting.

During the primary, local election officials reported increased incidents of disruption, harassment and intimidation to the state elections board. Sims said some of that is attributable to the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories surrounding elections.

“So many extra steps have gone into place. I can’t talk about everything that has gone into place. But, I assure you we are working very closely with our law enforcement community. And, they are all prepared to respond, if necessary, if there are any problems,” said Sims. “We aren’t going to put up with it.”

Sims is expecting a boost in turnout this year as interest in voting appears to be high. He said the previous record for turnout in a midterm in Wake County is about 60 percent.

“So, 65 (percent) would be a reasonable estimate. But, we’re planning for way more than 65 just to make sure that we’re prepared for all the voters that are gonna be coming. But, you’ve also got to look at all the growth in Wake County. Wake County is exploding in population,” said Sims.

Wake County, which is the largest county in the state, has almost 812,000 registered voters.

While mail-in voting requests are down significantly from 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re still above previous midterm elections. Wake County officials say they’ve already mailed out more than 35,000 ballots and have received about 6,800 completed ballots.

While the regular voter registration deadline was last Friday, people can register and vote on the same day during the early voting period.

To find locations and hours for early voting sites in your county, click here: https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-early-person