The Sampson County Board of Elections will ask the state to OK a reduction in hours for primary early voting this year, a move they say will save the county money yet won’t impede the convenience of citizens casting their ballots before May 6.
Early voting begins on April 24 and ends at 1 p.m. on May 3, but the total number of hours the Board of Elections in Sampson will be open will be trimmed if the OK from the state comes through.
Interim elections director Syliva Thornton told the board the state had sent down instructions on how to handle the primary early voting period, using the hours from the 2010 primary. During that primary, the early voting period was open for 17 days and a total of 141 hours.
But this year, the early voting days have been trimmed to 10, Thornton said, making it next to impossible to get the same number of hours in.
“We will be seven days short of the early voting days we had in 2010. I don’t see any way to work that many hours into the fewer days,” the interim director pointed out, noting that the current plan was to use only the Board of Elections office, off Rowan Road, as the early voting site during the primary period with hours from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on every Saturday except the final one on May 3, when the hours are mandated to be 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Thornton stressed that Sunday voting had not been productive in the last primary, with just a handful of people casting a ballot, and recommended to the board that they eliminate that day during the primary period.
“The two times we’ve tried early voting on Sunday, it’s been dismal. To me, it’s just not time well spent,” Thornton asserted.
Board chairman Ted Lockerman questioned the cost of having additional sites and longer hours during the primary period, with the elections director estimating around $1,000 as the likely amount that would have to come from county coffers should that decision be made.
She also threw out the possibility of board members sending the state Board of Elections a resolution requesting the hours be reduced.
“This would just be for the primary. We could ask permission to reduce the hours for early voting to what you think we could comfortably deal with,” Thornton pointed out. “This is an off-year election so it’s going to be slow.”
Locerkaman and fellow board members Horace Bass and Danny Jackson said they wanted to provide adequate time for citizens to vote but, at the same time, felt they needed to try to save the county money.
“If we can save the county money and provide our citizens with adequate time, then I say we should ask permission,” Jackson said.
“I say let’s ask to use fewer hours, all they can tell us is yes or no,” Jackson added.
Bass questioned the impact of eliminating Sunday voting during the primary period.
“The times we were opened on Sunday, twice, there were so few people it just didn’t seem worthwhile. I expect it would be the same during this primary too,” Thornton responded.
Shaking his head in agreement, Bass said it seemed reasonable not to be open on Sunday if there was so little response.
“So,” Jackson said, “don’t you think we ask for the fewer days?”
“To try to save the county money, yes, I agree,” Bass said.
Lockerman agreed with his fellow board members, calling for the vote which was unanimous to send the state elections board a resolution requesting a trimming of the early voting hours.
“I really don’t think this is going to be a problem” Thornton said.
The filing period opens Feb. 10 at noon and will continue through Feb. 28 at noon.
New elections director
The board briefly discussed the process they would follow to interview candidates for the elections director post left vacant with the death in November of Donna Marshburn.
Thornton has been acting in an interim capacity since that time and members have begun the search process.
Friday Lockerman said there were a total of 17 applications board members needed to go through. The first interviews are expected to be scheduled for next Thursday, with members hopeful they can have someone selected by Feb. 10.
“Even after we get someone, it’s going to take them some time to get used to the process here,” Lockerman said. “We really want to get on this and have someone in place by the time the filing period opens.”
Members agreed, setting a meeting for next Tuesday to go through the applications followed by what they hoped would be the first candidate interviews two days later, on Thursday.