11/01/12 — Early voting continues

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Early voting continues

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 1, 2012 1:46 PM

With only three days remaining for one-stop early voting, Wayne County appears poised to match, if not exceed, the 34,332 votes cast during one-stop voting prior to the 2008 presidential election.

Through Wednesday, when 2,264 people voted, the total number of ballots stood at 27,937. One-stop voting continues through this Saturday.

"We had 34,332 in 2008, and right now we are right on schedule to beat that," Wayne County Board of Elections Director Rosemary Blizzard said.

If that happens, it would mean that at least 50 percent of the county's 69,785 registered voters will have cast their ballots prior to the Nov. 6 election.

The total of registered voters includes 35,890 Democrats, 21,954 Republicans, 12,856 Unaffiliated and 85 Libertarians.

However, people also may register in person and then vote at a one-stop voting site in the county where they live. To register and vote, the person must sign and complete a voter registration form attesting that they meet eligibility requirements.

They must provide proof of residence by presenting a document that shows their name and current address in the county.

Acceptable identification includes a North Carolina driver's license, a photo identification from a government agency or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document.

On average since one-stop voting started on Oct. 18, more than 2,500 people have voted on a daily basis.

That average does not include the 2,935 people who voted over the weekend when 1,461 people voted on Saturday and 1,474 on Sunday.

The apparent low numbers are misleading, and not because of the threatening weekend weather, Mrs. Blizzard said.

Unlike weekdays when the polls are open nine hours, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the weekend hours were only four, from 1 to 5 p.m., she said.

Based on the hourly rate of voters during those shorter times, the number either day would have equaled or surpassed a normal nine-hour weekday, she said.

"We are averaging about 250 an hour," Mrs. Blizzard said. "We had about 277 per hour Saturday and Sunday. We were open and people took advantage of it. We were able to be open and the weather did not hamper us. It was business as usual."

This past weekend was the only time that Sunday voting will be offered. It also was the first day of one-stop voting at satellite locations at Fremont Town Hall and Johnston Ambulance Service on U.S. 70 West.

The main sites are Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St.; First Congregational Church, 215 Sleepy Creek Road, Dudley; and Woodmen of the World Lodge 3733 on U.S. 117 North.

Through Monday, 9,761 people had voted at the library; 8,733 at the Woodmen of the World; 4,126 at First Congregational Church; 529 at Johnston Ambulance Service; and 341 at Fremont Town Hall.

Establishing Sunday one-stop voting wasn't without controversy.

In August, the Wayne County Board of Elections approved by a 2-1 vote a one-stop plan that did not include a Sunday. Chairman Joe Lofton, a Democrat, supported the addition of Sunday, while board members Chris Gurley, a Democrat, and Republican Hal Keck voted against it.

Gurley and Keck opposed Sunday voting because of cost and having people work on Sunday. They also contended that later weekday voting hours and two Saturdays included in the plan should provide people with plenty of opportunities to vote.

However, county Democratic Party leaders labeled the opposition politically motivated and backed by the tea party-dominated Republican Party to achieve its goal of defeating President Barack Obama.

Lofton appealed the vote to the state Board of Elections that in a 3-2 party-line vote in early September overrode the local and added the Sunday.

While the voter turnout has been heavy at the one-stop sites, it appears the county has not experienced the aggressive electioneering being reported in some part of the state.

The county has received few calls from voters about aggressive electioneering or questions as to whether or not a candidate, or campaign worker, is in violation of the 50-foot buffer zone around the polls.

Poll workers have been told to closely monitor the buffer zone, said Beverly York, the county's deputy elections director.

"It is not a real problem," she said. "But that is something that we monitor. There have been one or two calls, but once the supervisor talked to them, they moved back.

"I have heard that in some areas it is a serious problem. It happens about every election when we get one or two calls, especially if it is a heavily contested election. We are on top of it as far as our supervisors."

People who think they have witnessed a violation of the buffer zone, seen aggressive electioneering, or who have other elections-related questions should call the Wayne County Board of Elections office at 919-731-1411.