Beaufort County exceeds 2012 early-voting turnout

Published 2:51 am Monday, November 7, 2016

More Beaufort County voters marked ballots during the early voting period for the 2016 general election than ever before.

When the early voting period ended Saturday, 14,489 voters had cast ballots. The former record was broken Friday, after 13,455 voters had marked ballots during the early voting period.

During the early voting period for the 2012 general election, 12,134 voters marked ballots.

On Friday, 1,562 voters marked ballots at the board’s office and three satellite sites, the largest turnout of any full day during the early voting period. Of those 1,562 voters, 932 voted at the board’s office, with 630 voters casting ballots at the satellite sites.

Saturday, 560 voters cast ballots at the board’s office, where 11,915 voters participated in early voting this election cycle. At the satellite sites in Aurora, Belhaven and Chocowinity on Saturday, 474 voters cast ballots.

Kellie Harris Hopkins, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections, is pleased with the record. In Beaufort County, the 2016 early voting period had 15 days, compared to 13 days in 2012. She believes the record provides insight into how voters may be trending toward voting early instead of on Election Day.

“It could say two things. First, that voter interest is higher this year than 2012. One, because we don’t have an incumbent president. Two, because North Carolina is clearly a swing state. All of us (elections officials) are noticing far more attention from the national presidential candidates than we usually do,” Hopkins said. “So, North Carolina is getting a whole lot more attention that it usually does simply because it’s a swing state.”

Hopkins added, “It could be that on Election Day, we could see that people are just starting to vote early more so than using Election Day. Voters love early voting. We’re usually voting more people early than we do on Election Day. So, it could be more people are voting early rather than on Election Day. So, it could be a lighter turnout then and be equal to 2012. So, we won’t know that until Wednesday.”

As usual, voter turnout on the last day of the early voting period was substantial.

“Turnout is heavy. It usually is that last Saturday. I think voters tend to wait until that last minute to vote early because they’re still pondering their choices,” Hopkins said Saturday morning about the number of voters at the polls, which closed at 1 p.m.

By 2 p.m. Saturday, 2.9 million voters had marked ballots during the 17-day early voting period, a 13.4 percent increase over the entire 2012 early voting period. “We are proud of the highest early voting turnout in the state’s history,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Statewide, North Carolina had more early voting hours and more sites than ever before.”

On Saturday, former Gov. James B. Hunt urged the North Carolina State Board of Elections to extend early voting to 5 p.m. across the state. U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat from Charlotte, also asked the state board to keep polls open to 5 p.m. Saturday. That did not happen. Some counties remained open until 5 p.m. because they had already scheduled the extended hours. Beaufort County, among others ceased early voting at 1 p.m.

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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