04/30/06 — Clerk's race will top ballot Tuesday

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Clerk's race will top ballot Tuesday

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on April 30, 2006 2:11 AM

Wayne and Duplin county voters will determine the candidates for a number of local and state offices Tuesday.

Democratic and Republican primaries will be held in races across North Carolina, and voters in most counties will use new, electronic voting machines to cast ballots. Following errors in tabulation in some recent elections, state officials ordered counties to adopt a uniform system of recording votes. Election Board officials say the new equipment is in place and poll workers are familiar with them and prepared to help voters cast ballots accurately.

In Wayne County, the most interest is in the races for clerk of court. Democrats Jo Ann Summerlin and Pam Minshew are vying for the Democratic nomination. Republicans Amy Carter Scott and Randy Winders are seeking their party's nod. The winners will square off in November. Current Clerk Marshall Minchew, no relation to Pam Minshew, announced last year he would not seek re-election to the office, which carries a four-year term.

Also on the Republican ballot in some parts of Wayne will be a contest for the District 10 seat in the state House of Representatives. Willie Ray Starling is looking to unseat incumbent Stephen LaRoque. The district includes portions of Wayne and Lenoir counties and all of Greene County. The term is two years.

All Wayne voters will have a chance to cast ballots in the races for associate justice of the Supreme Court and for two seats on the state Court of Appeals. The races are non-partisan and open to both Democratic and Republican voters.

In Duplin County, two Democrats and two Republicans are seeking the District 3 seat on the Duplin Board of Commissioners. The winner of the race between Democrats Arliss Albertson and Rebecca Judge will face the winner of the battle between Republicans Harold Raynor and Titus Swinson in November.

Also in Duplin, incumbent Russell Tucker will face fellow Democrat Martin Herring in the primary for the District 4 seat in the state House. Democrats Katie Harrell and Hubert "Pepsi" Merritt will be on the ballot for the county's clerk of court position. Mrs. Harrell is the incumbent.

The only other contested race in Duplin is between Democratic incumbent Johnni Blackwell and Jennings Outlaw for the District 2 seat on the county's Board of Education.

The county's Board of Elections office has placed biographical information, along with photographs and other information, on its Web site, www.waynegov.com/departments/boe.

For more information on precincts and ballots, the Duplin County Board of Elections can be reached at 910-296-2170. People can also visit www.duplincountync.com/boe. The county's Board of Elections office is located at 160 Mallard St. in Kenansville.

The national Help America Vote Act requires all counties to have voting machines available for blind, illiterate and other handicapped voters -- and those machines will be in place in both counties Tuesday.

In Wayne County, officials purchased the Election Systems & Software AutoMARK voter assist terminal. An audio function has a recorded voice that lists candidates to blind and illiterate voters allowing them to cast a ballot unassisted. The machine can also magnify the text of a ballot for those with poor eyesight. Voters unable to use their arms can use a sip/puff tube system to cast ballots.

Although some voters may prefer for a relative or loved one to continue to assist them at the polls, Wayne County Board of Elections Director Gary Sims said the option of using the AutoMARK is available to them.

The other machines purchased this year comply with the state regulations requiring each county to provide a paper trail to verify each vote.

Wayne County purchased precinct ballot counters from ES&S. After a voter chooses a candidate by filling in the oval by that person's name, the voter can place the ballot into the ballot counter to complete the process.

The machine is designed to accept and read a ballot regardless of what way the ballot is placed into the machine. Sims said he and his staff tested the machines thoroughly before one-stop early voting began two weeks ago.

Two representatives of ES&S will be in Wayne County throughout the primary election to help precinct officials and the county's Board of Elections office with any problems with the new machines, Sims said.

"We want everything to go smooth. The last thing we want to see is machine problems," he said.

So far, Sims said, that has not been a factor.

"I don't want to jinx myself, but everything is running smoothly," he said.

The polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

The deadline to request absentee ballots has passed, but any potential voters that have not returned their absentee ballots may do so before 5 p.m. Monday. They can be dropped off at the Board of Elections office at 209 S. William St.

More information on voting precincts is available at www.waynegov.com/departments/boe. People can find out what precinct they need to vote in by visiting the Web site or calling the Board of Elections office at 731-1411.