LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Elections must vote again on the location, days and hours that polling sites will be open for the November General Election.
Steve Stone, chairman of the three-member board, said a special meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Friday so that the board can “clearly address” the issues related to one-stop voting. He said that state elections officials have recommended that another vote be taken because it is not clear in the transcripts of the local board’s previous meeting if the selection of polling sites and their hours of operation were agreed to unanimously by all three board members.
State law requires that early voting sites and hours of operation be unanimously approved. Members of the Robeson County Board of Elections include two Republicans, Stone and Daniel Locklear, and a Democrat, Tiffany Peguise Powers.
According to G.L. Pridgen, director of the Board of Elections, the problem with board action taken on July 28 is resolutions were passed seperately, a vote first being taken on sites and then on days and hours.
“We voted piecemeal,” Pridgen said. “The state feels that the vote needs to be done as a single resolution so that it is clear that there is a unanimous agreement among board members about poll locations and voting hours.”
At the board’s last meeting, members unanimously approved two early voting satellite sites to be open in addition to the the Board of Elections office in Lumberton, which is required by state law to be one of the sites where voters can cast their ballots during the 10-day early period. The two satellite sites agreed to by the board will be in Pembroke, at the public library, and in Fairmont, at the senior citizens center.
Board members also agreed on the hours polls will be open.
At the Elections Board office, those hours are 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. weekdays, except for the first Thursday and Friday and the second Wednesday and Thursday when they will close at 7:15 p.m. On the Saturday before the election, polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Polls in Pembroke and Fairmont will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. the first Thursday and Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Saturday before the election.
The board on Friday could approve additional satellite polling sites, but the three sites to be used already exceed the 112.25 hours the state is requiring polls in Robeson County to be open. Required hours are based on early voting turnout during the 2010 General Election.
Friday’s meeting will give Powers another chance to plead her case for opening a poll in Red Springs. She tried the past two meetings to get an unanimous vote on Red Springs but was unsuccessful.
Powers also might try again to persuade her fellow board members to agree to opening at least one polling site for a few hours the Sunday before the General Election. At last month’s meeting her efforts to get support for Sunday voting was unsuccessful.
Powers could not be reached for comment.
Pridgen on Tuesday said that every additional satellite poll that is opened during early voting will up the cost of the General Election that he estimates will already cost more than $40,000. He said that the cost of operating each satellite poll will be more than $2,000, with the cost of running the state-mandated site at the Board of Elections office being about $5,000.
John McNeill, chairman of Robeson County’s Democratic Party, said that he believes more polling sites should be made available to voters during the early voting period. He said that he would like to see polls opened in both Red Springs and Maxton.
“Just beause it (board of elections) is government, why can’t good service be provided to the citizens?” McNeill said. “Voting should be made as accessible and convenient to voters as possible. I’m hearing from people in Red Springs and Maxton that they want more convenience so that they can vote.”