10/27/08 — Who's getting the vote out in Wayne?

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Who's getting the vote out in Wayne?

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 27, 2008 1:46 PM

Loo Oates of Dudley was among those gobbling up what was the hot-ticket item in Wayne County over the past two months -- voter registration forms.

"No one has seen an election like this in their lifetime," said Oates, creator of the Web site politicalblack.com. "Everyone is excited. Most are young, between the ages of 18-25, but there are a number of older voters as well.

"It has been unbelievable the number of people taking these forms and the ones we signed up and delivered ourselves."

There were nine total requests at the Wayne County Board of Elections office to take 50 or more voter registration forms to be filled out in the last three months -- a total of 1,200 forms requested. A few of those requests were made by the same individual.

Kimberley McNair requested 100 forms in September and then 100 more in early October. Timothy Edwards Sr. also made two requests for the Christ Center Church International -- one on Sept. 15 for 150 forms and then again on Sept. 16 for 100 forms.

Willie Battle requested 250 forms, Jane Speede Cox requested 100 for It' All Hair II, and the Rev. James E. Williams requested 200 for the Wayne County Democratic Party. Delores Kennedy requested 50 forms at the end of September, and Oates asked for 150 forms in early October.

Wayne County has added 5,903 voters since the May primary, including people who have registered during one-stop voting, bringing the total number of eligible voters to more than 65,000.

Up to 60 percent, or almost 40,000 of that total, are expected to cast ballots in one-stop voting.

Oates said having an African-American running for president and a woman for vice president are driving that interest to some extent, "but not as much as the pundits would have you to believe."

The war had been on voters' minds, but has been replaced by the economy, he said.

Oates said he has a friend who works at a sheriff's office in another county who has seen her 401K savings drop from $40,000 to $4,000.

"Economics are driving people crazy," he said."

Barack Obama is energizing young voters just as John Kennedy did in the 1960s, he said.

Oates said he was still too young to vote but remembers the excitement generated by Kennedy. That election night was, he said, the first time he stayed up all night to watch television

It is impossible to obtain an exact count as to how many were picked up. Only those people picking up more than just a few forms were required to complete and sign a form.

A glance at the Board of Elections' form book shows that 250 were picked up this month before registration closed on the 10th. Last month 1,240 were signed for.

The September totals ranged from a low of 15 to as many as 250.

Since the forms are uncontrolled and do not expire, the Board of Elections does not require people to return unused ones. Any completed forms returned after the deadline still must be verified.

"I think we had a good many go out, but I don't have any numbers on those," Board of Elections Director Vickie Reed said. "I can only look at the book we started here."

To register to vote a person must be a U.S. citizen 18 or older and must have been a resident of the state and county for 30 or more days prior to the election.

Oates said his non-partisan Web site, founded in 1999, has more than 300,000 members. It dispenses political news and has acted as consultant for some political candidates, he said.

"We ran some registration drives," Oates said of his reason for picking up the forms. "We ask them to register, we don't care what party, as long as they register and vote."

Oates said he had passed out 500 voter registration forms in the county.

Meanwhile, another deadline is looming for voters.

Tuesday at 5 p.m. is the deadline to request an absentee by mail ballot. The ballot must be returned in the mail by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 3.

Elections officials said the fastest way to receive such a ballot is to mail a written letter to the Wayne County Board of Elections, Attn.: Absentee Request, 209 S. William St., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530.

The letter must include the person's name, date of birth, physical address, mailing address, the Election Day for which the ballot is needed -- in this case Nov. 4 -- and signature.

A near relative of the voter may request a ballot. The relative must state whom the ballot is for and their relationship to the person. A near relative is defined as a spouse, parent, grandparent, legal guardian, child, grandchild, sibling or in-law.

People who registered to vote on or after Jan. 1, 2003, and did not present identification will be required to submit one of the following forms of identification with their returned absentee ballot: a current and valid photo identification; current utility bill, government check, payroll check or bank statement showing name and address; or another current government document showing name and address.

More information about the election, a listing of candidates and sample ballots are available at the Board of Elections' Web site at www.waynegov.com/boe.

The Board of Elections office will open Nov. 4 at 6:30 a.m. and will remain open until all precincts have reported and returned their equipment.

Election night results will be displayed in the office's board room as they are received from the precincts.