Low turnout likely Tuesday in town elections

Bob Shiles Staff writer

November 3, 2013

LUMBERTON — Robeson County voters go to the polls on Tuesday to elect council members in all of the county’s 15 municipalities and 11 mayors.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

According to Tina Bledsoe, interim director of Robeson County’s elections board, there are 18,885 county residents eligible to vote in Tuesday’s elections. She said that municipal elections, where there are no county, state or federal races on the ballot, typically draw low voter turnout.

But during the early voting period for Tuesday’s elections that began on Oct. 17 and ended Saturday at 1 p.m., more voters cast ballots than in early voting periods of municipal elections since 2009. As of late Friday, 1,459 votes had been cast.

Bledsoe attributed the high number of early votes to “heated races in three Lumberton City Council districts, contested council races in Pembroke and heated races for mayor in Fairmont and Red Springs.”

In Lumberton, the council races drawing attention are in Precincts 2, 3 and 5. In Precinct 2, incumbent John “Big Wayne” Robinson is facing a strong challenge from former Robeson County Manager Ken Windley; Precinct 3 features a heated contest between incumbent Councilman Jackie Taylor and Burnis Wilkins; and Precinct 5 has incumbent Councilman John Cantey facing a strong challenge from Paul Matthews.

In Fairmont, veteran Mayor Charles Kemp is being challenged by Bobby Charles Townsend, a current member of the town board, and Channing Cunningham.

Pembroke voters have eight candidates running for three seats on the town council. Included in the crowded field are incumbent Councilman Allen Dial and former Councilman Larry McNeill. Also running for a council seat is Theresa Locklear, who lost her bid for the council in 2011 by only seven votes.

In Red Springs, Mayor John McNeill is being challenged by former Mayor George Paris, a write-in candidate. There are also six candidates running for three seats on the Board of Commissioners.

Bledsoe said that polling places for most voters in municipalities throughout the county will remain as they have been in the past. Some precincts, however, have been merged in Red Springs, St. Pauls, and Fairmont.

The precincts merged and the new precincts formed are as follows:

— Red Springs : Red Springs 1 and Red Springs 2 are now designated as precinct “26A - Red Springs.” The polling site will be at the Red Springs Community Building at 122 Cross St.

— Fairmont: Fairmont 1 and Fairmont 2 are now designated as “05A-Fairmont.” Voters will cast their ballots at the Fairmont Senior Citizens Center at 421 S. Main St.

— St. Pauls: North St. Pauls and South St. Pauls are now designated as “32A-St. Pauls.” The polling site will be at the St. Pauls Town Hall at 210 W. Blue St.

Bledsoe also cited other changes in polling sites:

— Voters in Lumberton 1A, Clybourn Pines, are permitted to cast ballots in Lumberton 8A at the Lumberton Lions Club.

— Voters in the Smyrna Precinct who vote at the Smyrna Fire Department are permitted to vote at Lumberton 6 at the South Lumberton Resource Center.

— Voters in Lumberton 4 who vote at the East Lumberton Resource Center are permitted to vote in Lumberton 3 at the Godwin Heights Community Building.