LUMBERTON — The director of the Robeson County Board of Elections is pretty sure that a good number of Robeson County voters will participate in the upcoming Democratic and Republican primaries on May 6.
“I believe there is going to be a real good turnout for early voting and on Election Day,” G.L. Pridgen said. “There is a race for sheriff this year and that usually brings more people out to the polls.”
This year, candidates will be vying for their party’s nomination for federal, state and county offices, including county commissioner, sheriff, clerk of Superior Court, district attorney, judges, state senator, and state representatives. Non-partisan school board candidates will also be elected to the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education during the primary.
In 2010, the last primary that was held that did not include a presidential race, about 18,000 ballots were cast, representing about 27 percent of the registered voters.
Early voting for both party primaries begins Thursday and continues through May 3. Four polling sites will be open throughout the county.
“We are opening early voting sites at locations throughout the county where we think the heaviest voter turnout will come from,” Pridgen said. “These sites may be different for future elections.”
In addition to the Board of Elections Office at 800 N. Walnut St. in Lumberton, voters can cast their ballots at the senior center in Fairmont, and at the Maxton and Pembroke public libraries.
Polling sites and hours are as follows:
— Board of Elections office: Weekdays from 8:15 a.m to 5:15 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 3, which is a Saturday.
— Fairmont, Maxton and Pembroke: Thursdays and Fridays (April 24 and 25, and May 1 and 2), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and on May 3 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Because of new election laws, voter registration no longer is permitted on the days of early voting. The last day to register to vote in the May 6 primary was April 11.
According to Pridgen, as of Friday the Board of Elections had sent out 202 ballots to voters who have requested to vote absentee. The last day to request an absentee ballot is April 29. The request must be returned to the BOE office or postmarked by 5 p.m. April 29.
“The staff has been working very hard to get all absentee ballot requests mailed out on the same day we received them,” Pridgen said.
Pridgen said that another new law requires that all voters cast their ballots in the correct precinct in which they reside. Precincts will have only their registered voters listed in their books, and will not have the correct ballots for anyone but their registered voters.
Although they will be asked if they have a photo ID when they go to the polls, Pridgen said voters will not have to show an ID in order to cast their ballot.
“A new law states that voters will have to show a photo ID at the polls beginning in 2016,” he said. “We are just asking voters now if they have an ID so that if they don’t, we will give them information to help them get one before 2016. We do not want anyone left out that wants to vote.”
Voting on May 6 will take place from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Polling sites will be open in all of the county’s precincts.
Pridgen said that with the new election laws in place, as well as training given to all poll workers, he doesn’t see there being the number of voter irregularities that have occurred in Robeson County elections in the past. He said Friday that there have been some cases reported of election rules and regulations not being followed.
“We do get some reports of zealous campaign workers doing things that are not legal,” Pridgen said. “When we get complaints that warrant it, we just pass that information on to the state or give the person making the complaint the number they can call to log their complaint with the state. It is hard at this (county) level to decide if certain complaints are valid.”
According to Pridgen, there are currently 52,900 registered Democrats, 8,700 registered Republicans, and 12,700 registered unaffiliated. Those voters registered unaffiliated can participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary.