LUMBERTON — Although Republicans generally oppose early, one-stop voting, the GOP leader in Robeson County said Thursday that his party does not object to the addition of satellite one-stop polling sites and Sunday early voting in Robeson County.
“It will probably help us as much as the Democrats,” said Phillip Stephens, chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.
Stephens said Sunday voting may actually be a “risky proposition” for Robeson County Democrats, since 86 percent of county voters casting ballots in a May referendum voted in favor of Amendment One, which bans any marriage except marriage between one man and one woman. He said that voters leaving church on Sunday to vote might be reminded that President Obama and the Democratic platform support gay marriage.
On Thursday, Robeson County cleared any hurdle for Sunday voting.
According to Johnnie McLean, deputy director of administration for the state Board of Elections, the state board by law does not have to approve the county’s plans to hold Sunday voting because it was a unanimous decision by the three-member county board to open polls for early voting on Oct. 21, which is a Sunday. McLean said, however, that the state has requested each of the members of the local Elections Board to notify the state in writing that they support Sunday voting and the hours that voting will take place at all four Robeson County early, one-stop voting sites.
The state board would have had to review and make a decision on the county’s early, one-stop voting plans if the vote had not been unanimous for the polling site hours hours, McLean said.
The early voting period for the Nov. 6 General Election begins Oct. 18 and ends on Nov. 3.
In anticipation of a large voter turnout for the General Election in November, the Robeson County Board of Elections on July 24 approved three satellite polling sites — in Red Springs, Pembroke and Fairmont — to be used for early, one-stop voting. Those sites will be in addition to the Board of Elections Office at 108 W. Elizabethtown Road.
The three satellite polling sites will be in the Fairmont Fire Hall on South Main Street; the Pembroke Library on Blaine Street; and the Red Springs Community Center on Cross Street.
The board met again on Aug. 30 and unanimously approved having Sunday voting at all four voting sites on Oct. 21.
As approved by the board, hours for the early voting at the Board of Elections Office will be weekdays 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21.
All three satellite sites will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Satellite hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 20, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, all Saturdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Dock Locklear, the board’s director, told The Robesonian earlier this week that he was not certain if the state board had reviewed the county’s early voting plans at its Tuesday meeting, or if there were any concerns raised by the state concerning the proposed Sunday hours. He said the state had requested that the local board “rework” its resolution to include all of the hours that the four county early voting sites would be open.
“It’s my feeling that the state just wants the resolution reworked for clarity,” Locklear said.
During the Aug. 30 meeting, several community leaders, including John McNeill, the county ’s Democratic Party leader, John Cantey, vice chairman of the county ’s Democratic Party, county Commissioner Hubert Sealey, Jimmy Gilchrist, chairman of the Robeson County Black Caucus, and Renea Stackhouse, president of the Unified Robeson County NAACP, urged Board of Elections officials to provide the extended voting hours.
Early voting is also called one-stop voting because first time eligible voters can both register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.