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Elections info hits web

Beaufort County Board of Elections members (from left) Archie Harding, Jim Vosburgh and Tom Payne, chairman, test voting machines Tuesday. (WDN Photo/Mike Voss)

Beaufort County voters have a new tool to use when it comes to voting-related issues, elections and campaigns.

The Beaufort County Board of Elections has launched a new website — www.beaufortncboe.org — to help voters review candidates’ campaign reports, view sample ballots and check voter-registration information. The new website allows a voter to look at the specific sample ballot that applies to his or her situation — school district, congressional district and political party.

“I think if you look at your calendar — it’s time,” said Tom Payne, chairman of the elections board, when asked what motivated the board’s move to launch the website. “Everybody else has got a website — county governments. That’s how the public operates now, in the comfort of their own home.”

Payne said Beaufort County residents can access information about statewide candidates and candidates for different N.C. General Assembly or congressional candidates on the N.C. State Board of Elections website. He described the state board’s website as excellent and informative.

“We want to provide the citizens of Beaufort County the same excellence as the state does,” Payne said.

Payne said the county commissioners were instrumental in development of the website.

“It has the blessing of the county commissioners. They totally support it. In fact, the county commissioners have been very good to us, and I am very grateful,” Payne said.

Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, said the website is a “work in progress.” County voters are encouraged to recommend what they’d like the website to provide them, Hopkins noted.

“There are several issues that have come up that Tom and I thought (the website) would help out a lot,” Hopkins said. “The public, for one, is getting more involved with elections. Our campaign-finance side of the office — more and more people are becoming aware of that. More and more candidates in Beaufort County are meeting that threshold (once a candidate reaches $1,000, he or she is required to report contributions and expenses). So, they’re starting to really report their expenditures. We’ve got more and more people coming into the office wanting to see these reports. It takes up man hours to sit here with them and do what we need to do because they (reports) can’t be outside of our eyesight.”

With the new website, that information and more can be made readily available to the public, Hopkins said.

“We think it’s important for the public to be aware they are available for them to look through,” she said.

Hopkins credits Payne for pushing for and getting the support needed to make the new website a reality.

Hopkins plans to use the new website to help recruit poll workers to work primaries and general elections. She plans to develop an electronic application — that can be accessed on the new website — for people who may be interested in serving as poll workers, who get paid for their work.

The new website provides convenience, too, Hopkins noted.

“We’re here (at the elections office) from 8 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.), and a lot of people can’t make contact with our office from 8 to 5,” she said. “After hours, this allows them to get what they need when we’re not here.”

Hopkins said the website will change as the public provides input and elections staff finds ways to educate voters online.

“This is a baby, our baby. We’ll grow this website as the public kind of lets us know what they want… That’s are main priority — to educate the voters, not so much the issues but on the electoral process,” she said.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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