LUMBERTON — The early voting period for the July 15 run-off election for the District 2 seat on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners began today.
Ballots in the race between incumbent Robeson County Commissioner Hubert Sealey and Berlester Campbell, a former county commissioner, can be cast only at the board of elections office on North Walnut Street in downtown Lumberton.Except for Friday, July 4, the poll will be open weekdays now through July 12 from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. The poll will also be open from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 12, which is a Saturday.
“Everything has been tested and we’re ready to go,” said G.L. Pridgen, director of the county’s elections board. “We hope to see a large turnout.”
Pridgen said Wednesday that only voters in the 13 precincts making up District 2 can take part in the election. The commissioners race is the only contest on the ballot.
According to Pridgen, any properly registered Democrat residing in District 2 can vote in the run-off even if that person did not vote in the Democratic primary on May 6. Any registered unaffiliated voter who voted Democrat in the May 6 primary can also participate in deciding the July 15 run-off, he said.
Since there is no Republican run-off, no registered Republicans can participate in the run-off election, said Pridgen.
Although the number of days for early voting was reduced statewide to 10 days, more Robeson County voters went to the polls early for the May 6 primary than in 2010, according to Pridgen. In May, there were 4,607 one-stop ballots cast. In 2010 only 3,507 votes were cast during the early voting period.
Pridgen, however, said that if past history is any indication there won’t be a large amount of voter participation in the run-off. He cited the 2010 second primary election for U.S. Senate between Democrats Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham to support his position.
“There were 61,000 Robeson County Democrats eligible to vote in the election and only 1,540 voted,” Pridgen said. “That’s less than 3 percent that voted.”
Pridgen acknowledged that there probably will be more participation in the upcoming election between Sealey and Campbell because it is a local contest and voters know the candidates. He said he did not have available results of any past local run-off elections except for presidential election years in which a greater number of county voters always participate in elections.
Pridgen said that as preparations have been made for the run-off there have been no complaints to his office made by voters or candidates.
”I think folks are confident that this election will be fair,” Pridgen said. “We treat everyone the same. We have a good staff here.”
Sealey said earlier this week that he thinks he will do fine at the polls.
“I think I’ve got good support,” he said. “The momentum is growing.”
Sealey said that during his campaign he has tried to bring attention to the accomplishments he has made over his years on the board. He joined the board in 2002 when he narrowly defeated Campbell, who was the sitting commissioner at that time.
“There’s not much he (Campbell) can show the people that he has done,” said Sealey.
Attempts to reach Campbell for comments about the run-off were unsuccessful Wednesday.
According to the state board of elections, Robeson County followed the statewide trend of more voters casting one-stop, early ballots in the 2014 primaries than cast one-stop ballots in 2010. In the 2010 primaries, 19.7 percent voted one-stop statewide, with that number jumping in 2014 to 25.8 percent, the state board said.
A news release from the state elections board also stated that second primaries are being held on July 15 to decide 19 contests in 37 counties. No statewide ballot item is required in any of the second primaries.
The run-off election for the District 2 commissioner’s seat was requested by Sealey, who finished behind Campbell in a six-way race. Neither Sealey, with 666 votes, or Campbell, with 833 votes, received the necessary 40 percent of total votes cast to claim victory and prevent a run-off.