LUMBERTON — With six more days of early voting, more ballots have been cast during this year’s primary than during the entire early One-Stop Voting period of 2014, the last one to feature a sheriff’s race.
As of Friday evening, 5,821 votes had been cast at early voting sites across the county, with 3,465 cast at the Board of Elections Office Lumberton alone, said G.L. Pridgen, director of the office. During the 2014 May primary, a total of 4,710 voters were cast during all of the early voting — 1,111 fewer than already this year.
In 2014, 15,221 votes were cast total during the entire primary — and at least one local political observer believes that number will be easily passed by the end of May 8.
“We have another whole week, and we have Election Day itself,” Pridgen said.
The turnout is being driven by an inviting menu of local races, including five candidates for sheriff, three for district attorney, 14 for four seats on the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, and eight for three competitive seats on the Board of Commissioners.
The county will get a new sheriff and district attorney as Sheriff Ken Sealey and District Attorney Johnson Britt are retiring.
Historically, the bulk of the votes cast in a primary election will be cast on Election Day, Pridgen said. But the pendulum is swinging.
“More and more people are doing this,” Pridgen said of voting early.
Early voting started on April 19 in Lumberton and last Monday at five satellite sites spread throughout the county. Early voting ends on Friday at the satellite offices, but voters will have a half day on Saturday to cast ballots, but that has to be done at the Board of Elections at 800 N. Walnut St. in Lumberton.
Edward Henderson, chairman of the Robeson County Democratic Party and mayor of Red Springs, declined to comment Friday on the early voting numbers. He said he is making it a point to remain neutral during the primary process.
Phillip Stephens, Robeson County Republican Party chairman, said early voting was tracking similar to 2014 until a big uptick last week. He believes total turnout, when all the votes are counted after Election Day, will far outpace 2014, saying he expects a total between 18,000 and 20,000.
He said the fact an incumbent sheriff is not running for the first time since 1994, is pushing people to the polls, as well as the fact the race is “contentious.”
“… We are still sticking with our initial analysis that voter turnout will be greater this year as there is no incumbent, which again, should increase turnout,” he said. “But if that analysis holds true it will be because Election Day is busy … .”
Early voting ballots can be cast at the Board of Elections Monday through Friday this week from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. each day, and on Saturday from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The satellite sites are the Fairmont Fire Hall and Senior Citizen Center at 421 S. Main St. in Fairmont; Gilbert Patterson Library at 210 Florence St. in Maxton; Pembroke Library at 413 Blaine St. in Pembroke; Red Springs Community Center at 122 Cross St. in Red Springs; and the St. Pauls Town Hall at 210 W. Blue St. in St. Pauls.
The satellite sites will be open to voters from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. The hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]