07/20/04 — Polls see little activity so far in today's elections

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Polls see little activity so far in today's elections

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 20, 2004 1:59 PM

Voting got off to a smooth but slow start at 30 Wayne County precincts, an elections official said.

County officials had hoped for at least 10,000 voters for today's primary elections and a special election of a replacement for former U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance. But it appeared this morning that turnout would fall short.

People who were voting reportedly were not facing any delays or complications.

"We were flooded with calls early in the morning, but everything seems to be working well," Elections Director Gary Sims said around 10:30 a.m.

Some voters were surprised by a new requirement that they sign the voting register, Sims said.

The precinct judges are expected to allow more people to vote provisional ballots during this election. The law now allows people to vote and then gives the Board of Elections until next Tuesday, the canvass day, to determine the legitimacy of the provisional ballots.

"It makes it a lot easier for our judges. They don't have to make a lot of phone calls. They just let people vote, and we sort it out later," Sims said.

The county could have as many as 300 provisional ballots, he said. The high number is partially due to the fact that many people don't vote except in presidential-election years but have not informed the elections office of address changes.

A quick survey of precincts this morning found things orderly.

"Voter turnout has been pretty slow, but it's about what we expected," said Judy Strickland, the chief judge at Precinct 4. Around 40 people had made it into the Pikeville Fire Department by 9:15 a.m.

South on U.S. 117, activity seemed a little quicker. Nearly 50 people had voted at Belfast Fire Department by 9:30 a.m.

"Things have been going great. It's been steady," said Kathie Davidson, Precinct 5's chief judge. "I think it's been a little better than they're expecting."

As she was leaving the polling place, Shirley Belfast said she never passes up a chance to vote. "It's the American thing to do."

William Sowrey was another eager voter. "I'm trying to get someone in office that I like," he said, adding, "Of course, I may not like him so much once he's in."

In Goldsboro, voters in Precinct 29 had to adjust to a new polling place, the Wayne County Public Library.

Chief Judge Larry Mozingo had voted at Edgewood School for 36 years but liked the new site, he said. "They had no parking there; you had to park where you could. This is a lot easier to get in and out for our voters, many of whom are elderly."

Polls close at 7:30 tonight.