Thousands of people have cast their ballots for the 2012 general election just days into early voting in Sampson County, including nearly 400 on Sunday, a day that saw a mere dozen votes in 2008.
Still two weeks to go before Election Day, the turnout has been constant since the doors to the Sampson County Board of Elections were opened to a line of voters Thursday morning. As of noon Monday, there were more than 2,900 people who had taken advantage of early voting, with that number expected to continue to spike drastically as the hours and days move ahead.
Donna Marshburn, director of the Sampson County Board of Elections, anticipated a large turnout for early voting leading up to last week’s start and said Monday she has seen a “steady” flow of people since Thursday.
“It’s changing as we speak,” Marshburn said Monday of the total number of early voters.”There’s probably 10 or 15 people in here right now. It’s changing with the time.”
There were 13,739 Sampson County residents who voted early in 2008, but many of them came in toward the end of the 17-day span. This year, voters came out in droves from the start and the crowd has not waned, Marshburn noted. While it is impossible to predict, the elections director said she would not be surprised if 2012’s early voting numbers surpass those from four years ago.
“In 2008, a lot of people voted toward the end and we voted over 13,000,” she said. “We’ve had more people (early) this year. We’ve not had more voters, but they’re voting earlier than they have before. It’s been steady and we’ve had very little lull. I think there will be more people early voting this year if it keeps that way.”
It will not be known until Election Day how the voting has gone, however of those who had casted early ballots through noon Monday, 1,742 were registered Democrat, 908 registered Republican, 285 unaffiliated and four Libertarian.
Those numbers are on par with Sampson early voting figures for 2008’s presidential election, which similarly reflected a 2-to-1 Democrat to Republican turnout. In that election, 8,387 registered Democrats cast early votes, compared to 4,106 Republicans, 1,239 unaffiliated and seven Libertarian. In 2010, an off year, the numbers were much closer together for early voting, with 3,007 registered Democrats, 2,518 Republicans, 553 unaffiliated and two Libertarians casting ballots for a total of 6,080.
There are a total of 37,578 voters registered in Sampson County, including 18,346 registered Democrats, 13,438 Republicans, 5,739 unaffiliated and 5 Libertarians. Marshburn said everyone gets nearly the exact same ballot in general elections, which are devoid of straight-party options.
“They all get the same ballot in a general election,” said Marshburn. “The only way it is different is if they live in a particular commissioner or House district.”
Early voting is available at the Board of Elections, located at 335 County Complex Road, Building D, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The opportunity to vote early will extend through the Saturday before the election, Nov. 3.
As crowded as the Board of Elections has been, the opportunities to early vote only increase as the day goes on. Ballots can be cast at the three other county locations from 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The Board of Elections served as the sole polling place Thursday. Three off-site precincts were opened starting Friday and into the weekend, including Sunday.
Those 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.
Since Friday, the first day for the off-site polling places, there have been 371 votes cast in Roseboro, 247 in Newton Grove and another 177 in Garland, while the Board of Elections has seen 2,150 ballots cast, all as of noon Monday.
Saturday voting is held 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.
Sunday voting boom
For just the second time, Sunday voting was thrown into the mix, giving local voters another day to get ballots in early at any of the four sites. Sparse attendance at previous Sunday polls in Sampson — one was held in 2008 to just a handful of people — gave county officials pause, but the number of Sunday voters this time around dwarfed the dozen or so people who stopped by early voting sites four years ago.
One-stop voting was available from 2-6 p.m. and the crowd was comparatively immense.
“We had quite a bit more than we’ve had before, when only 10 or 12 voted,” Marshburn said. “We had 388 people vote (Sunday). That is a big improvement.”
While many have stressed the importance of voting, that cannot be done without being registered first. In addition to giving people an option to cast their ballots ahead of time, early voting also serves as the final opportunity to get registered.
“If they have never registered, they can do it during one-stop voting only,” Marshburn has 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 at that time.
Many have heeded that call.
Of the roughly 3,000 who have lined up to vote early in Sampson, 121 of them were getting in the queue for the first time as new voters. With just four days in the books and early voting on its fifth day Monday, that 3,000 figure is large and will only get larger.
“We don’t close until Nov. 3” said Marshburn. “So we’ve still got almost two weeks to go.”
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 email@example.com.