Early vote turnout pretty good

First Posted: 4/23/2010

LUMBERTON Although some complaints have been voiced about overzealous campaign workers, early voting in Robeson County is moving ahead without difficulties, according to Dock Locklear, supervisor of the countys Board of Elections.
So far, so good, Locklear said last week. Theres been a pretty good voter turnout.
Locklear said through Thursday, about 2,020 of the countys more than 69,000 registered voters 51,846 Democrats, 7,652 Republicans, 9,487 unaffiliated, and 41 Libertarians had cast ballots during early voting. One-stop voting for the May 4 primary, which began April 15, continues through 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Locklear said that he believes by the time one-stop voting ends about 4,500 voters will have cast ballots. The combination of competitive races for county sheriff, state Senate, and state House is drawing people to the polls, according to Locklear.
Weve had higher one-stop voter turnouts at other times, but 4,500 is a good number, Locklear said. The last presidential election was our highest turnout, with about 7,500 casting ballots during the one-stop period.
More people are now taking advantage of the one-stop period. And no one race is using it any more than another.
Although county residents can register to vote at the same time they cast their one-stop ballot, Locklear said that most of those voting early had already registered.
Out of every 200 to 300 voters that have used one-stop voting, only about 18 or 20 of them are new voters who need to register, he said.
While Locklear believes state election laws governing one-stop voting need to be fine-tuned, he said that he believes one-stop voting is good for the voters.
Its convenient, he said. It is designed for those who need to be other places on the day of the election.
Although the state Board of Elections as of Friday had received no complaint from any registered county voter, Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the state Elections Board, said she had been informed about an April 16 altercation between two campaign volunteers for rival candidates. The incident, which took place while the workers were handing out candidate literature to a voter heading into the polls, has been described by witnesses as verbal rather than physical.
McLean said it is not unusual for her office to hear complaints from campaign workers on the first day or two of one-stop voting.
As it gets closer to a primary election or any election campaign workers in all counties do some crazy things, McLean said. They are passionate about their candidates. They all have different perceptions concerning what the other side is doing in its campaign.
McLean said that she talked with Locklear about the complaint, and that the director assured her that any problems have been corrected.
McLean said that she has also received a letter from the Robeson County Unified Chapter of the NAACP requesting that the state monitor Robeson Countys upcoming primary election. Renea Stackhouse, president of the local chapter, said that the request was made because her organization has received several complaints alleging voter intimidation.
No one should be intimidated when they go to the polls, Stackhouse said. We like for all of our candidates to have a fair opportunity during elections. We want voters not to feel intimidated. We want all voters to feel free to vote for the candidates of their choice.
The request is being considered.
There has not yet been a determination made, McLean said. There is still plenty of time before the primary.
Locklear said that he took care of problems resulting from the April 16 incident. Three candidate tents that had been set up on the office parking lot were ordered moved to another location, he said, and Lumberton police are keeping a watch.
I talked to all parties involved, and everything is worked out, Locklear said.
How to vote early

Voters wishing to participate in one-stop voting can cast ballots weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the Board of Elections office at 108 W. Elizabethtown Road or from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 2, when, early voting ends.

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