Majority: What primary election?

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Staff Writer

Just over 6,100 Beaufort County voters marked ballots Tuesday during the primary election.
The county has 31,417 registered voters on its rolls, related Anita Branch, deputy elections director.
According to Branch, 1,437 voters participated in the one-stop early voting period, which ran from April 15 until May 1. Another 41 voters submitted mailed-out, absentee ballots.
With 377 voters, the Surry-Bath precinct turned out most heavily among all of the county’s 21 precincts, according to unofficial numbers available after the polls closed.
The River Road precinct was next in line with 330 voters.
By mid-Tuesday afternoon, turnout was light and sporadic at polling places around the county, and the voters who were trickling in encountered no lines at several sites between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Voter participation was steady but lagging behind Bath at the Chocowinity Fire Department building, which housed the polling places for the Gilead and Chocowinity precincts.
Asked if he was satisfied with the turnout by 1:30 p.m., Robert Harding, chief judge of the Gilead precinct, said, “I don’t know if I can ever be satisfied.”
Harding and other poll workers said the voters who showed up were relatively quiet, and few mentioned being motivated by particular races or issues.
“I think the county and the country is in such a terrible condition that everybody needs to vote,” said voter Shirley Elks, who lives in the Chocowinity precinct.
Elks said she was inspired to vote because of a combination of issues and the races on the ballot, indicating that no single matter had prodded her to make the drive to the fire department.
Stationed outside the P.S. Jones-Ward 3 polling place in Washington, Washington Councilman Ed Moultrie said he was “unofficially” campaigning for Ed Booth, an incumbent, Democratic Beaufort County commissioner seeking re-election, and Watsi Sutton, a judicial candidate running for a District Court seat.
Asked for his thoughts on the less-than-steady stream of voters, Moultrie replied, “I’m glad I’m not running.”
He added, “People don’t understand the importance of voting.”
Inside the P.S. Jones voting place, chief judge William O’Pharrow was cast as the realist.
“It’s just an off-year election,” O’Pharrow said. “We expected a low turnout, so it’s normal.”
Booth stopped by the P.S. Jones polling place on his campaign rounds.
“By 7:30 tonight, we’ll be fine,” he said, referring to the time at which polls were scheduled to close.
Booth would go on to finish as the apparent top vote-getter among the Democratic commissioner candidates.