Let the voting begin.
The long campaign season begins its slow turn to a conclusion this week as voters throughout North Carolina venture to the polls for One-stop Absentee Voting — also known as Early Voting.
Voters will be casting ballots for political offices ranging from United States President to U.S. congressmen, state legislative leaders, and to a variety of local races including judges and county commissioners.
Here in Richmond County voters have at least one hotly contested race for the 8th District Congressional seat. Running for reelection is Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell, who has two challengers: Republican Richard Hudson and write-in candidate Antonio Blue. County voters will also be electing a new state senator, as Sen. William Purcell chose not to run for reelection.
All those races and more are on ballots being marked starting today in Rockingham.
One-stop Voting allows any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot in-person on select days prior to Election Day. One-stop Voting begins on the third Thursday prior to Election Day and ends on the last Saturday before the election. Election day this year is Nov. 6.
“Early voting is an option for those who prefer to vote now instead of waiting until election day,” said Connie Kelly, Richmond County’s Director of Elections. “There is an application form that is completed, signed by the voter and witnessed by the One-stop worker. A ballot is issued to the voter that contains an application number and the precinct code. The reason for the application number is that (Early Voting) is still absentee voting and requires a retrievable ballot system.
“The advantages of voting early are the convenience of choosing between 16 days of early voting and only one actual Election Day,” Kelly said.
“For those who may have missed the deadline to register on Oct. 12, this is your opportunity to register and vote with proper current identification,” she said.
The main site for early voting is 123 Caroline St. in Rockingham. This is the Richmond County Agricultural Center or Cooperative Extension building.
Kelly said this location was selected because of the easy access it afforded.
” … We recognized over a year ago that our office would not accommodate the type of turnout expected in a presidential year,” Kelly said. “Furthermore, we do not have adequate parking and the parking that we do have is not easily accessible for voters with disability issues. Leaving our parking lot can be hazardous to anyone as traffic (is) coming from around the courthouse and from the north on South Hancock Street.”
The location on Caroline Street is temporary until the county can determine a better permanent solution for the space and parking needs, she said. The other Early Voting sites available with limited hours are the Cole Auditorium and Ellerbe Town Hall.
Early Voting began at 8:30 a.m. today and ends on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m. For a complete list of hours and locations, visit www.richmondnc.com.
Early Voting is popular with the county’s voters. In the last presidential election in 2008, more than 60 percent of the voter turnout in Richmond County was early voters, Kelly said.
“That is the only time we have recorded more early voters than election day, but early voting is still very popular even in the off election years,” she said.
“We ask that voters understand the process (and) have patience. If you have failed to update your voter information and it has changed since the last time you voted, we can simply update your address or name and you will still be able to vote on the spot,” said Kelly.
Also during Early Voting, those who do not provide identification and are not registered will be offered a provisional ballot, she said.
Elections officials are also advising citizens that voting a “straight party” vote does not include the office of President/Vice President or any nonpartisan race or issue:
• You must vote for President/Vice President separately from the other offices.
• Nonpartisan offices and issues also must be voted separately.
More detailed instructions are on your ballot. For paper ballots, be sure to turn the ballot over because there may be contests on the back of the ballot.
For more information, visit the NC State Board of Elections website at www.ncsbe.gov.
— Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 13, or by email at email@example.com.