05/02/08 — Duplin primary voters increase

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Duplin primary voters increase

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 2, 2008 1:45 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The number of registered voters in Duplin County has grown rapidly in the last few months, with most registering as unaffiliated, giving them the chance to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.

Since Jan. 1, more than 500 new people have registered to vote in Duplin, with 409 of them registered as unaffiliated.

Both parties now permit unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in their primary elections. The thinking of party leaders was that unaffiliated voters who chose to vote in their primary would be more likely to return to the same party come November.

Of the voters who switched parties, 39 Republicans changed their registration to Democrat and 144 to unaffiliated. Sixteen Democrats switched to the Republic ranks and 42 became unaffiliated.

Duplin County Board of Elections Director Suzanne Southerland said there normally is an increase in voter registration prior to a presidential primary. But this year's number seem higher than normal, she said. She said she is not sure what prompted the surge.

"It (voter numbers) has really grown," she said.

Since Jan. 1, the voter rolls in Dupin have increased from 26,548 to 27,208. That breaks down to 15,497 Democrats, 6,725 Republicans and 4,986 unaffiliated.

A full slate of candidates for public office, from the White House to the county courthouse, are on the ballot Tuesday.

Along with making their picks for public office, voters also will decide the fate of a one-quarter cent increase in the local sales tax. If approved, Duplin commissioners have said that all proceeds will go to the county public schools and to James Sprunt Community College.

Only the county's Democrats have local races in the primary -- two for the board of commissioners and three for the school board. And in some cases, winners in the primary will, in effect, capture the office since they face no opposition in November.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

There are four candidates for the District 1 commissioner's seat left open when incumbent Commissioner L.S. Guy of Faison decided not to seek re-election. Vying for that seat are Jimmy Dixon of Mount Olive, Winston Jennings of Kenansville, Frances Parks of Calypso and Snodie B. Wilson of Kenansville.

District 6 Commissioner Reginald A. Wells of Teachey faces challenger Jessie Hand Ladson of Warsaw.

There is no Republican challenger in the November general election for either commissioner district so winning the primary is tantamount to winning the seat.

Three board of education members have challengers.

In District 1, incumbent Willie Gillespie of Kenansville is facing Georgette Ward of Warsaw and Ronnie Bostic of Kenansville. The winner will take on Kraig Westerbeek of Warsaw in the November general election.

District 5 board member Reginald Kenan of Rose Hill is opposed by Helen C. Dobson of Rose Hill.

Hubert E. Bowden of Warsaw, who represents the District 6, faces challenger Mary Marzella Morrisey of Warsaw.

Neither Bowden nor Kenan face opposition in November.

On the national level, are primaries for the Third Congressional District. Incumbent Republican Walter B. Jones is being challenged by Joe McLaughlin. In the Democratic primary, Marshall Adame and Craig Webber are competing for a spot on the November ballot.

Voters can cast ballots ahead of time. One-stop voting is under way daily through Saturday at two locations -- the Board of Elections office at 160 Mallard St. in Kenansville, next to E.E. Smith Middle School, and at the old Chamber of Commerce building at 316 Murray St. in Wallace.

The hours are 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily at the Kenansville location and noon until 5 p.m. at Wallace. Both locations will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Ms. Southerland said that as of Wednesday, 677 residents had taken advantage of the one-stop voting -- 566 in Kenansville and 111 in Wallace.

Ms. Southerland said her office would update its Web site as election results come in. The Web site is www.duplincountync.com/governmentOffices/

People can also see election results at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service building at Duplin Commons, where a projector will be set up to display the results on a large screen.