Last updated: August 14. 2014 3:53PM - 280 Views
By - bshiles@civitasmedia.com

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LUMBERTON —A member of the Robeson County Board of Elections may ask the state to decide whether a request to include Red Springs as satellite early voting sites has merit.
The Robeson County Board of Elections agreed last week to open two satellite early voting sites for the November General Election in Pembroke and Fairmont.
But the decision was not unanimous.
The lone Democrat on the three-member board, Tiffany Peguise Powers, refused to go along with Republicans Steve Stone and Daniel Locklear and support those satellite polling places. Although she agreed to the two sites at a meeting last month, she proposed Friday that a satellite poll also be opened in Red Springs and that some Sunday voting hours be made available.
Powers said after the meeting she has the option to have the state Board of Elections review her proposal and decide if it would be in the best interest of Robeson County voters. State law requires that early voting sites and hours of operation be unanimously approved or the dissenting member can ask the state board to consider their proposal.
“I'm considering asking the state to review my proposal, which would include requesting a Red Springs polling site and Sunday voting,” she said.
Red Springs Mayor John McNeill said he wished that the local board could have found a way to have five satellite early voting sites.
“From a geographical standpoint, Robeson is the largest county in North Carolina and I don't see why a governmental body can't make the function of voting more convenient,” said McNeill, who also serves as chairman of the county Democratic Party. “I like the idea of having as many voting sites as possible.”
McNeill said he was disappointed that there was not a site closer to Red Springs.
“Pembroke will be our closest site and for folks at our end of the county, it may take at least 20 minutes to go from here to the polling place in Pembroke,” he said. “A site in St. Pauls would have been quicker and it would be just as handy for the people in St. Pauls to come here. I really don't see the justification in denying a site in Red Springs.”
In addition to the two satellite sites that will be open during the 10-day early voting period, voters will be able to cast their ballots at the Board of Elections office on North Walnut Street in Lumberton.
This was the second time that the board agreed on these specific sites and hours for the polls to be open. Friday's specially called meeting was held at the recommendation of state election officials who felt the transcripts of the local board's previous meeting do not clearly show that the selection of polling sites and their hours were agreed to unanimously.
G.L. Pridgen, director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said that the problem with the board's action taken July 28 is that resolutions were passed separately, a vote first being taken on sites and then on the days and hours. On Friday, the votes were taken as one and the one resolution was passed by just the majority vote.
Pridgen said that he was uncertain how much time Powers has to request state elections officials to review her proposal. He said that unless the state board rules differently, early voting will take place at the two approved satellite polls and the main office.
At the Elections Board office, hours are 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. weekdays, except for the first Thursday and Friday and the second Wednesday and Thursday when the polls will close at 7:15 p.m. On the Saturday before the election, polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Polls in Fairmont and Pembroke will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. the first Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the second Thursday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Saturday before the election.
The 150 hours approved for the three sites exceed the 112.25 the state is requiring polls to be open in Robeson County. Required hours are based on early voting turnout during the 2010 General Election.
Stone defended his decision for voting against any additional satellite sites or Sunday voting based on the cost. The number of voters using early voting during an election where there are only two major contested races countywide — sheriff and U.S. Senate — would not warrant more polling sites and voting hours, he said.
“This is not a 2012, 2016 or a contested primary election with a large number of candidates,” Stone said.
Pridgen said earlier this week that every additional satellite poll that is opened during early voting will up the cost of the General Election that he estimates is already going to cost more than $40,000. He said it will cost more than $2,000 to run each satellite poll and $5,000 to run the polling site at the main office.

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