Early voting for the 2013 municipal election will begin Thursday at the Sampson County Board of Elections, which will serve as the lone one-stop site leading up to Election Day on Nov. 5.
“We’re the only one-stop location for all the municipalities,” said Ann Knowles, deputy director of county elections. “We’re opening starting Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
The Board of Elections will keep those hours from Monday through Friday leading up to the election, and will be open one additional day, on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is the only Saturday voting provided and there will be no Sunday voting.
Election officials have touted early voting as an opportunity for people to avoid some of the perceived hassles or hustle and bustle that goes hand-in-hand with Election Day voting. However, while early voting for general elections in 2010 and 2012 has accommodated voters in droves, about 34 and 40 percent of the overall turnout respectively, the turnout is not nearly as large for voting in municipal elections, which involve incorporated segments of the county and not the entire population.
“We do not expect a big rush,” said Knowles. “That is the reason we’re able to handle (early voting) at the Board of Elections. Garland and Roseboro will probably be the heaviest voted.”
She pointed to contested races in those municipalities, as well as Salemburg. Knowles said same-day registration will still be extended, despite a new law that would abolish it and curtail the early voting period itself.
A Voter ID bill passed in the N.C. Legislature this summer will get rid of same-day voter registration, trim the period for early voting by a week — from 17 days to 10 — while tightening restrictions on registration, requiring voters to, among other things, submit a paper registration form by mail or in person at least 25 days in advance of a primary or election.
Gov. Pat McCrory has said the changes will not take effect until the 2016 elections.
“They can register and vote during one-stop for this election,” Knowles noted.
Election Day voting will be held from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. that Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Sampson County Board of Elections, located at 335 County Complex Road, Building D, as well as convenient locations in each municipality.
Those locations will be Autryville Town Hall, 215 S. Gray St., Autryville; Clinton City Hall Auditorium, 221 Lisbon St., Clinton; Garland Town Hall, 190 S. Church Ave., Garland; Harrells Fire Department Training Center, 924 Ward Road, Harrells; Newton Grove Fire Station, 313 W. Weeksdale St., Newton Grove; Roseboro Municipal Building, at 101 W. Pleasant St., Roseboro; Salemburg Municipal Building, 100 Methodist Drive, Salemburg; and Turkey Town Hall, 51 Market St., Turkey.
In Clinton, only incumbents filed, including mayor Lew Starling and City Council members Maxine Harris (District 5), Marcus Becton (District 3) and Steve Stefanovich (District 1).
However, other towns, notably Roseboro and Garland, will have hotly contested races on tap.
Garland mayor Winifred Murphy is being opposed by current commissioner and mayor pro tem Ralph Smith in the town’s mayoral race. On the board itself, there are six candidates vying for three open seats, with three incumbents, Haywood Johnson (who fulfilled the unexpired term of Coleman Johnson last year), Denise Toler and Michael Toler being joined by challengers Judy C. Smith, S.J. Smith, a longtime commissioner himself, and Carolyn Yolanda Melvin.
The ballot for the Roseboro Board of Commissioners race is just as packed, with six individuals vying for two open seats. Current board members Anthony Bennett and Alice Butler will be joined in the race by Cary Holland, Steven Heath, Barry C. Templin and Laura Nicole Owen Gray.
Besides big races in Garland and Roseboro, Salemburg is the only other municipality with a contested election on the ballot. In that race, incumbents Joe Warren and Arnold Page are squaring off against Johnnie Parker and Dickie Walters for the two open seats on the board.
In other races, Newton Grove commissioner Barbara Burch is poised to take the reins as the town’s new mayor following the retirement of longtime mayor Gerald Darden. Incumbents Gary Mac Herring and Stephen Jackson and newcomer Teresa Wilson are expected to fill out the three commissioner’s vacancies in Newton Grove, with no one else on the ballot.
In Autryville, Patricia A. Williams is expected to continue her long tenure as the town’s mayor as she is running unopposed. Similarly uncontested races for the town’s two vacant commissioner seats, which will likely go to Mickie Wilton Spell and Bill Holden, barring write-ins.
In Harrells, Charles S. (Ted) Moore and Kim Johnson are running unopposed for the two alderman seats. Donald C. (Donnie) Moore and Tony Moore are running unopposed for two commissioner spots in Turkey.
For more information about early voting, contact the Sampson County Board of Elections at 910-592-5796.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.