One-stop voters trickling to polls

Published 11:57 am Thursday, April 22, 2010

Staff Writer

About 400 people had taken advantage of one-stop, no-excuse absentee voting in Beaufort County as of 2:03 p.m. Wednesday.
The one-stop period began April 15 and closes May 1.
The county elections office, normally open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, will remain open from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. May 1, to accommodate last-minute comers.
Beaufort County had 31,376 voters on its registration rolls as of March 31, said Anita Branch, deputy elections director.
In 2008, 2,141 county voters participated in one-stop ballot-marking before the primary election.
Asked whether the county is on track to meet or exceed that total this year, Branch replied by saying, “By no means.”
She noted that lower voter turnout is par for the course in a midterm election year, when a presidential contest isn’t on the ballot.
“I think it’ll slowly pick up, but it won’t meet 2008’s (total) at all,” Branch added of this year’s one-stop voter participation.
By way of comparison, neighboring Pitt County had seen 1,135 voters participate in one-stop polling as of Tuesday afternoon.
Pitt County had 103,157 registered voters at last report, according to the Pitt County Board of Elections.
“From what I’ve heard, our turnout here is much better than surrounding counties for whatever that’s worth,” said Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party.
Britt said he hadn’t seen Pitt County’s turnout numbers, but he had heard they were “extremely low.”
Britt indicated he isn’t concerned about the lagging local figures.
“This is not the one that counts,” he said, suggesting that he’s more concerned about turnout in the general election on Nov. 2.
Britt also said he didn’t believe low turnout would carry over into the fall, when he expects the electorate to be more active.
“I think the fall will be an entirely different picture,” he stated.
Asked whether a lower turnout would help or hurt the GOP in this county, he responded by saying, “I think a low turnout would probably benefit us. If (the Democrats) don’t get their base out they’re not going to win.”
Answering a subsequent question, he cautioned that the Republicans don’t have a lock on this November’s general election.
“Any time you have elections you don’t have a lock on anything,” Britt said. “There’s a great deal of work to be done, and we will be doing it.”
Leading representatives of the Beaufort County Democratic Party couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.