Nearly one-third of voters marked their ballots early

Published 8:17 pm Monday, November 5, 2018

Some Beaufort County voters will mark ballots at the polls today, but 30 percent of the county’s 33,536 registered voters voted during the early voting period that ended Saturday.

During the 14 days of early voting in the county, 10,315 voters cast ballots at four early voting sites — Washington, Aurora, Belhaven and Chocowinity, a 24.7-percent increase over the 2014 general election. By far, the Washington site handled more early voters — 7,160 — than the other three sites combined. In Aurora, 464 voters marked ballots. In Belhaven, 894 people voter early. In Chocowinity, 1,797 voters took advantage of the early voting period. Mail-in absentee ballots (received by Saturday) total 175.

Friday was the busiest day during the early voting period, with 1,012 voters marking ballots.

During the early voting period for the 2014 general election, 8,271 (25 percent) of the county’s 32,670 registered voters cast ballots.

Anita Bullock Branch, deputy director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections, attributes the increase to at least two factors — the proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution, statewide judicial races one local judicial contest. “I think it’s the amendments. We really don’t have any hot, hot races except for the race between Cayton and Homes,” she said.

Branch was referring to the district court contest between Democrat Darrell Cayton Jr. and Republican Sarah Homes. Cayton is the incumbent. Homes is a magistrate in Hyde County. That contest became contentious in the past several weeks.

Across the state during the early voting period for the 2018 general election, just over 2 million voters marked ballots, a 73-percent over the 1.17 million early voters in the 2014 general election.

During the 2018 early voting period, 1,057 voters of the 2,035 registered voters in the Gilead precinct marked ballots early, for the highest percentage (51.94) turnout among the county’s 21 precincts. The Pinetown precinct had the lowest turnout with 160 of its 874 registered voters (18.31 percent) casting ballots early.

“I think it is interesting which precincts are having more turnout early,” wrote Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, in an email.

During the early voting period, 4,384 Democrats, 3,492 Republicans, 2,594 unaffiliated voters, 15 Libertarians and five Constitution Party members cast ballots.

During the early voting period for the November 2016 general election, 14,445 voters — 43 percent of the county’s 33,330 registered voters — marked ballots during that presidential election.

By gender, the majority of Beaufort County voters this early voting period were women — 5,594 (53.33 percent) — with 4,555 men (43.42 percent) voting. The gender of 341 voters (3.25 percent) was undetermined, according board figures.

After the polls close at 7:30 p.m. today, votes from the early voting period, absentee ballots and Election Day will be combined for an unofficial vote total. The official vote total will be determined when the four-member Beaufort County Board of Elections conducts it ballot canvas Nov. 16. That’s when the board determines which, if any, provisional ballots are approved and added to the vote total.

Polls open today at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 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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