LUMBERTON — The number of voters casting ballots during the early voting period for Tuesday’s municipal elections is the highest in municipal election years since at least 2009.
As of late Friday afternoon, the total number of votes cast since the early voting period began Oct. 17 was 1,459, according to Tina Bledsoe, the interim director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, and voters still have today until 1 p.m. today to take advantage of the early, one-stop voting period and avoid the lines and waiting periods that could crop up on the day of the elections.
In the municipal elections held in 2009 and 2011, there were 995 and 1,239 voters, respectively, who cast their ballots during this period, Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe said the number of ballots cast today could increase the total of votes significantly.
“Saturday is usually a big day …,” she said. “It’s the voter’s last opportunity to vote early.”
Bledsoe said that the early voting period drew no real surprises, except for the total number of votes cast. She also said that that this year’s early voting patten through Friday mirrored past years.
“For the first couple days voting was heavy and steady,” she said. “Then it slowed down and dropped way off. On Thursday the numbers started to rise again, which is usual for the end of the voting period.”
Bledsoe attributed the high number of voters to “heated races” in three Lumberton City Council districts, contested council races in Pembroke, and heated races for mayor in Fairmont and Red Springs.
Voters will be electing council members in all of the county’s 15 municipalities, and mayors will be elected in 11 municipalities
Bledsoe said Friday afternoon that 174 voters from Fairmont, 217 voters from Pembroke, and 165 voters from Red Springs had traveled to Lumberton to cast their ballots during the early voting period. There were 874 votes cast in Lumberton for the four seats up for election on the City Council.
Municipal elections typically record low voter turnout, Bledsoe said. Overall voter turnout is usually greater in years when there are county, state and federal positions on the ballot.
The early voting period is also called one-stop voting. It is commonly referred to as one-stop because first-time eligible voters can both register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day.
Recent state legislation revising elections regulations, however, does away with the ability of eligible first-time voters to register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day. This is the last year that the one-stop privilege will be allowed.
Bledsoe also said that voters starting in 2016 will have to present a state approved picture ID when they go to the polls to cast their ballots.