Those wishing to cast their ballots for the 2012 general election can do so in Sampson starting Thursday at the Board of Elections Office, with early voting opportunities spreading into the county on Friday and over the weekend, to include the lone Sunday voting that is being made available.
Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 18, and will extend through the Saturday before the election, Nov. 3. Polls will open for early voting at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Board of Elections, located at 335 County Complex Road, or Building D.
Such voting will be available at the Board of Elections from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday during that time. Ballots can be cast at the three other county locations during the same span from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with this coming Friday, Oct. 19, serving as the kick-off for those sites.
The three sites are located at Newton Grove Rescue Squad, at 301 W. Weeksdale St., Newton Grove; the Garland Rescue facility, at 20 Rich Road, Garland; and the Roseboro Municipal Building, at 101 W. Pleasant St., Roseboro.
Donna Marshburn, director of the Sampson County Board of Elections, said she fully anticipates seeing a large crowd at the Board of Elections Thursday.
“I really think so,” said Marshburn. “The phone stays busy, with people wanting to know when, where and what the hours are (for early voting). It seems like they are all fighting to be first. Thursday morning we might have a line out the door. Then again, you never know.”
In addition to voting during the week, Saturday voting will be from 10 to 4 p.m. at all four sites, with the only exception being the final day of early voting, Saturday, Nov. 3, when all voting statewide will end at 2 p.m. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, during which all 23 of the county’s precincts will be open to the public from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
And for just the second time, Sunday voting will be thrown into the mix, giving local voters yet another day to get ballots in early at any of the four sites. It remains to be seen whether the extra date proves beneficial for voters or feasible for the county. Sparse attendance at previous Sunday polls in Sampson — one was held in 2008 to just a handful of people — would say no, but the county has heeded another request by the public that the opportunity be extended.
Marshburn said she has heard of some local efforts to bring people to the polls this Sunday, Oct. 21, when one-stop voting will be available from 2-6 p.m.
“We did not have a tremendous turnout the last time we did (Sunday voting), but we could have a big turnout this time,” Marshburn said. “Time will tell.”
While Sunday voting may not have received a huge turnout, early voting has proven to bring Sampson residents out in droves, with the 2010 general election seeing nearly one-third of the total votes cast in the weeks leading up to election day. There were 17,499 total ballots cast as part of the 2010 general election, with 5,906 people cast their ballots as part of early voting — 33.8 percent.
“A lot of people like the early voting,” Marshburn said. “It gives them an opportunity they don’t have to go to the polling place.”
Early voting also allows people to avoid some of the perceived hassles or hustle and bustle that goes hand-in-hand with Election Day voting, Marshburn noted. She said the large participation in early voting may be attributed to a “better environment” in which those who would urge people to vote a certain way are not out in full force. Polling places also are obligated by law to say each voter’s name and political affiliation aloud upon receiving their ballot, something that may not be readily known to some.
“They don’t do that to be ugly,” Marshburn said. “It’s a state law.”
Those wanting or needing help while voting have to ask for help themselves, and say who they want to help them. If it is a spouse, friend or guardian, that is perfectly fine, however poll workers are also there to assist if called upon.
“If they want a poll worker, we are glad to help,” said Marshburn, “but they have to ask.”
Along with other benefits, early voting additionally serves as the last opportunity to get registered to vote.
“If they have never registered, they can do it during one-stop voting only,” Marshburn said. Those people will have to bring with them some form of government identification that shows their name and physical address, be it a driver’s license, government check, light bill or some other form of ID. They should also be prepared to cast their ballot then.
“They have to register and vote at the same time,” Marshburn said. “They can’t register and then come back to vote later.”
So far, 550 absentee ballots have been issued by the Sampson County Board of Elections. Absentee ballots can be requested from the Board of Elections, which will mail them to a specified address, and must be returned prior to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5. There were 1,212 absentee ballots issued in 2008, with 1,023 returned.
For more information about early voting, contact the Sampson County Board of Elections at 910-592-5796.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.