Despite massive early voting figure, overall turnout down slightly

By: By Chris Berendt -

There were 26,073 ballots cast in the 2016 Presidential Election in Sampson County, roughly 68.5 percent of the registered voting populous in the county. It is a turnout that, despite record-setting early voting numbers, was a decline from overall turnouts in the previous two presidential elections in 2008 and 2012.

Elections director Ashley Pate Tew provided the official election results, available following a canvass meeting on Wednesday at the Sampson County Board of Elections. The provisional ballots and the supplemental absentee by mail ballots were included to come up with the final tallies.

Among the ballots counted, there were 317 provisional ballots researched thoroughly at the county level, with all DMV attestation provisional ballots were researched at the N.C. State Board of Elections level. Of those, 113 were approved, some partial counts due to voting out of precinct. There were also 204 were denied due to no registration nor attempts to register found; being previously removed and no attempt to re-register found; or being previously denied and no attempt to re-register found.

In all, there were 26,073 ballots cast in Sampson this year, compared to 26,430 in 2012 and 26,310 in 2008. Sampson currently has 38,073 registered voters.

Of that registered population, 15,232 voted early during the 17-day one-stop voting period. Additionally, there were 475 absentee by mail voters, 29 supplemental absentee by mail voters and 10,224 Election Day voters (three of which were provisionals).

The 15,232 early voters far surpassed the early voting numbers in 2008 and 2012, at 15,041 and 14,562, respectively even though the final tally ultimately was lower this year than in both of those years.

Official election results in Sampson County showed that Donald J. Trump had a sizable lead over Hillary Clinton, 8,489 votes (54.33 percent) to 6,872 votes (43.98 percent) after one-stop and extended that margin on Election Day. Trump would amass 14,838 votes (57.23 percent) to Clinton’s 10,547 (40.68 percent) in Sampson, while Gary Johnson collected 393 votes (1.52 percent), the results show.

In the North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory was pitted against Democrat challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper. Sampson voters were resoundingly in favor of McCrory, who received 14,935 votes (57.96 percent) to Cooper’s 10,566 (41.01 percent). Lon Cecil garnered 265 votes (1.03 percent). However, Cooper earned a razor-thin edge over McCrory in the statewide race, one that has yet to be conceded by McCrory.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Challenger Deborah Ross was another runaway in Sampson, with Burr garnering 14,819 votes (57.85 percent) to Ross’ 10,269 votes (40.09 percent). Sean Haugh had 529, or 2.07 percent.

In the North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District race, Democrat J. Wesley Casteen challenged Republican incumbent David Rouzer, who cruised in Sampson County, taking 60 percent of the vote on his way to reelection. The final numbers showed Rouzer with 14,907 votes (60.15 percent) to Casteen’s 9,874 (39.85 percent).

William (Billy) Sutton amassed 12,447 votes in Sampson (59.10 percent) to Anita R. Powers’ 8,613 votes (40.90 percent) on the way to retaining his N.C. District 4 court judge seat. Michael C. Surles received 10,093 votes in Sampson (51.85 percent) to Nathan Sweet’s 9,373 votes (48.15 percent) and maintained that margin across the district to win Judge Louis Foy’s seat.

There are currently 38,073 registered voters in Sampson, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about 3,000. There are more than 7,000 unaffiliated voters in the county, with a trend being seen in Sampson of declining Democrats and increasing number of voters identifying themselves as unaffiliated. In 2012, there were slightly less registered voters at 37,528, but many more Democrats, at 18,346, compared to 13,438 Republicans, 5,739 unaffiliated and five Libertarians.

By Chris Berendt

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.