Even as local elections officials recovered from a boom in early voting that saw nearly 40 percent of the county’s registered voting population come to the polls, they were preparing for a busy Election Day today during which well over 100 personnel will man 23 local precincts across Sampson.
There were a whopping 14,562 early voters in Sampson, including 13,703 people who physically came out to the Sampson County Board of Elections, and sites in Roseboro, Newton Grove and Garland, between Oct. 18 and Nov. 3. Additional absentee and military voting accounted for the total figure.
The 13,707 number nearly eclipsed 2008’s early voting turnout of 13,739, however the 14,562 total votes cast leading up to Tuesday’s Election Day was further off from the 15,041 total early ballots four years ago with absentee and other voting taken into account.
Donna Marshburn, director for the Sampson County Board of Elections, said the early voting was extremely busy, especially in the waning days as voters rushed to the polls Friday leading up to their closure early Saturday afternoon. The lead-up to Tuesday meant no rest for the weary.
“We worked the whole weekend,” said Marshburn, who said precinct personnel was prepping Monday. “They’re picking up supplies and their print-outs to go out today. The chief judge is responsible for doing that and locking them away until tomorrow.”
Every precinct must have one chief judge, as well as at least one person representing both the Republican and Democrat parties, chosen by those parties. Depending on the size of the precinct, there may be more than one representative. The elections director said most of the electronic voting machines had already been rolled out to various precincts at the end of last week and were standing by in secured locations prior to the opening of polls at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“They’ve already been delivered,” Marshburn noted. “Some were delivered this morning and a lot of them were delivered Thursday and Friday of last week and locked in a secure location.”
Some precincts, like Lakewood and Clinton East, are much larger and will have up to eight clerks working that location. “They take more people, because they have more voters,” Marshburn said. Smaller precincts, such as Herring, Salemburg and others, will likely have four clerks.
However, with 23 precincts and anywhere from four to eight clerks at each, holding one day of voting across the county — despite the percentage of those who have already early voted — is a large undertaking, in terms of manpower, resources and time.
“It is a very big deal,” Marshburn said, “and it’s hard to find good, qualified people. You have to work from 6 in the morning to 8:30 at night, with no breaks and no lunch. It’s a long day and they have to be at those sites. We do pay them, but it’s not a lot. My budget will not allow me to pay them any more. The county cannot absorb that.”
Marshburn has estimated that it takes several thousand dollars a day just to staff the four early voting sites with four people for five to six hours, while also taking into account the utilities cost at the facilities. That number would be doubled in terms of hours for Tuesday, and would have to be multiplied by six to account for the 23 precincts.
“It’s very expensive across the board to hold an election,” Marshburn said. “It could be anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000. It will probably be closer to the $40,000 for this Presidential election.”
Not to mention the toll it takes on elections personnel, who were working Sunday and Monday to ensure that precincts’ voter rolls reflect early voting.
“We cannot prepare their stuff before we close one-stop voting because we have to mark off the people who have already voted,” Marshburn said. “They need to be marked in their books.”
Of the 14,562 votes that were cast early in Sampson, 7,884 were registered Democrat, 5,070 registered Republican, 1,588 unaffiliated and 20 Libertarian. There were 13,739 Sampson County residents who voted early in 2008, but that figure was bigger with absentee and other votes tallied.
“We actually did 15,041 with absentee by mail and military voting,” Marshburn said. “So we did a little less in Sampson County this year.”
There are a total of 37,578 voters registered in Sampson County, to include 18,346 registered Democrats, 13,438 Republicans, 5,739 unaffiliated and five Libertarians. Overall, there were 23,923 in Sampson who voted in the 2008 election — 12,177 Democrats, 9,152 Republicans, 2,584 unaffiliated and 10 Libertarians — meaning roughly 63 percent of the vote was ultimately early and absentee voting.
Of the 13,707 early votes cast at local sites, 9,373 votes were cast at the Board of Elections, 1,908 in Roseboro, 1,633 in Newton Grove and another 789 in Garland. There were an additional 811 absentee ballots issued by the local elections board, 647 of which had been returned by Monday afternoon. Absentee voters will have to postmark those ballots by Tuesday to ensure they are tallied.
Polls open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7:30 p.m. For more information about 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 email@example.com.