As early voting begins, mixup frustrates some voters

Published 7:22 pm Friday, October 15, 2021

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The one-stop early voting period for the 2021 municipal election in Beaufort County started Thursday morning and will run through Saturday, Oct. 30.

Approximately 10,000 Beaufort County residents are eligible to vote in this year’s municipal election. There’s been some confusion among those who aren’t eligible. While this year’s elections are strictly municipal, the 2022 election cycle will feature the race for Beaufort County sheriff. Several candidates who intend to formally enter that race when the filing period opens in December have already placed signs around the county and have campaigned in other ways, more than a year in advance.

Elections Director Kellie Harris Hopkins said many voters who can’t participate in the municipal elections because they live in outside precincts have shown up to the Board of Elections, thinking that now is the time to vote for sheriff.

“They’re frustrated, especially if they come from way out,” Hopkins said. “When they come in to vote and they can’t, they get frustrated.”
Hopkins said she will use social media and other methods to make it more clear that the race for sheriff is not being contested in this cycle.

The county’s early voting site is the Beaufort County Board of Elections office, which is located at 1308 Highland Drive in Washington. Early voting will be available every weekday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 30, the final day of early voting, the office will be open from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Election Day is Nov. 2.

During the early voting period, any registered voter may vote at any early voting site in their municipality before Election Day. Individuals may also register and vote at the same time using same-day registration.

To take advantage of same-day registration, voters must attest to their eligibility by signing a voter registration application and providing proof of residence.

During the early voting period, registered voters may update their name or address, but may not change their party affiliation.

“Turnout is slow right now,” Hopkins said Friday. “We’re hoping that will pick up as we go through one-stop.

“A third of the registered voters are eligible for this election, so of course turnout is going to be less than a presidential election,” she added. “But we want everyone to come in that’s eligible.”

Voters may also vote on Election Day, Nov. 2, at their assigned precinct or cast an absentee-by-mail ballot. The deadline to request a ballot is Oct. 26.

Belhaven is the only Beaufort County municipality with a contested mayoral race this year, as Ricky Credle is seeking reelection against Arthur Bonner. In other contested races, one seat on the Town of Aurora Board of Commissioners will go to a write-in candidate because not enough candidates filed; appointed Belhaven Alderman Greg Satterthwaite is challenged by Bobby Freeman in his bid to retain his seat representing West End; Louise Furman, Billy Albritton and Gerald Bullock are vying for two seats on the Chocowinity Board of Commissioners; and 10 candidates are vying for five available seats on the Washington City Council. The field in Washington includes incumbents Richard Brooks, Betsy Kane, William Pitt, Virginia Finnerty and appointed member Mike Renn, as well as A.J. Congleton, Bobby Roberson, Lou Hodges, Roland Wyman and Gwendolyn Gilbert.

In Bath, Donna Wortman and Donald Shreve were the only candidates to file for the two available spots on the town’s board of commissioners. Appointed member Jim Caton and incumbent David C. Johnson were up for reelection this year, but neither filed before the deadline. Caton and Johnson have since launched write-in campaigns.