Early voting turnout meeting expectations

Published 1:55 pm Monday, October 24, 2016

So far at the Beaufort County Board of Elections, there have been no long lines during the early voting period, which began Thursday.

That doesn’t mean voter turnout has been low, according to Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director. Voters in places such as Raleigh and other urban areas have been standing in lines for up to two hours to mark ballots.

Through Friday, 2,197 Beaufort County voters marked ballots during the first two days of early voting, with 1,177 of them voting Thursday and 1,020 of them voting Friday, according to county elections officials.

“Turnout has been exactly what we expected, which is the same as 2014 and 2012. I believe both starting days were within 20 to 30 votes. We are higher than them, but not by a great deal,” Hopkins said Saturday afternoon. Beaufort County’s always been a place where turnout is higher than normal (statewide). We expect Beaufort County to continue to turnout at a higher rate, and that’s what we got this year, too.”

Hopkins said Beaufort County voters traditionally turn out heavily in the first few days and last few days of the early voting period.

“Historically, that’s how it always is. The first days is a very high turnout; then it dies down. (Friday) we still had over a thousand voters. That was a good number. The closer we get to the election, the higher the turnout will get,” Hopkins said.

One precinct in Dare County had long lines last week because it had only one computer to use to check in voters. “We have five computers,” Hopkins said about the early voting site in the lobby of the Beaufort County board’s office.

For this election, the 100 county boards of elections scheduled at least 42,400 hours of early voting for the Nov. 8 general election.

During the 2012 general election, the most recent presidential election, a little more than 2.5 million voters marked ballots during the early voting period, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Those early voters accounted for 41.7 percent of the number of registered voters at that time — 6.65 million.

Beaufort County had the 10th-highest voter turnout among North Carolina’s 100 counties in the 2012 election, according to a Democracy North Carolina report.

The county’s voter turnout was 71.8 percent, according to the report. The Beaufort County Board of Elections’ website put voter turnout at 71.96 percent.

The Board of Elections office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today through Wednesday. The schedule for the last 10 days of the early voting period follows: extended office hours at the Board of Elections office, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 31 through Nov. 4, and from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 5. Three satellite offices (Aurora, Belhaven, and Chocowinity) would be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2 through Nov. 4 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 5, 198.5 hours. There is no early voting on Sundays in the county.


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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