Elections board

Published 7:32 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

By Staff
nixes extension
of early voting
One-third of votersin Beaufort Countymarked ballots early
Contributing Editor
The early voting period in Beaufort County ends at 1 p.m. today.
During an emergency meeting Friday morning, the three-member Beaufort County Board of Elections unanimously voted not to extend the early voting period until 5 p.m.
On Thursday, the N.C. State Board of Elections ordered all 100 counties to keep their early voting sites open an extra four hours today unless local elections officials unanimously determined it was not necessary to extend the early voting period the extra four hours.
The early voting period ends at 1 p.m. today in Hyde and Washington counties. The Martin County Board of Elections opted to extend the early voting period until 5 p.m. In addition to early voting at the board’s office in Williamston today, voters may mark ballots in Robersonville at the W.C. Chance East End Schools Cultural Center, 304 Cochran St.
During its discussion of the issue Friday morning, the Beaufort County board determined there was no need to extend the early voting period in the county. Board members G.D. Elliott, James Vosburgh and Mae Morgan said extending the board’s office hours and opening two early voting satellite sites during the early voting period provided voters with 60 extra hours (as of Friday) to mark their ballots than they had during the previous election cycle.
Vosburgh took exception to the state board’s action on Thursday.
He was referring to the state board’s request earlier this election cycle for local elections boards to extend hours and open early voting satellite stations to accommodate an expected increase in the number of early voters this election cycle. That record-breaking increase in North Carolina is what promoted a request to extend the early voting period. The state board’s action came after Guilford and Mecklenburg asked for permission to keep their early voting sites from closing at 1 p.m. today as scheduled.
Vosburgh one of the reasons he opposed extending the early voting period is because elections personnel must spend many hours after the early voting period ends preparing election-related records and documents. Those records and documents must be ready, inspected and approved by the local board before Tuesday’s general election. Extending the early voting period would have placed an undue burden on elections workers, he said.
Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County, called the early voting turnout in the county and state “unprecedented.”
As of Friday morning, 10,211 of the county’s 31,913 registered voters had voted early. That means a third of the county’s voters have marked ballots early. Those early voters include voters who used absentee ballots to vote. Slightly more than 600 absentee ballots sent to voters had not been returned as of Friday morning. Absentee ballots must be received by the board by 5 p.m. Monday.
Across the state, more than 1.7 million voters — about 30 percent of the state’s registered voters — had marked ballots at early voting sites through Thursday.
Elliott, chairman of the board, reminded voters who plan to vote on Election Day to make sure they report to the correct precinct to mark ballots. Doing so will help make Election Day run smoother for poll workers, he said.
Anyone with questions related to voting or other elections-related items should call the elections office at 946-2123, elections officials said.