One-stop voting topped 16,000 in New Hanover County is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

A sign outside the New Hanover County Board of Elections on the first day of one stop absentee voting for the 2016 primary election. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
A sign outside the New Hanover County Board of Elections on the first day of one stop absentee voting for the 2016 primary election. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

One-stop voting in New Hanover County over the last 10 days drew thousands of voters.

According to the county’s Board of Elections website, 16,036 of the county’s 158,186 registered voters stopped by one of the county’s five early poll locations over that period. That’s almost 10,000 more than during the one-stop voting period for the 2014 primary election, which drew 6,122 voters, according to data from Carolina Transparency’s vote tracker. During the 2012 primary election, the last one involving presidential candidates, 9,631 people participated in one-stop voting.

New Hanover County Elections Director Derek Bowens expected this.

“Usually in presidential election years, we see a much higher turnout,” Bowens told Port City Daily last month. “It really drives up our numbers.”

According to Laura Rogers, site coordinator at the Board of Elections’ early voting location, they were averaging over 800 people per day over the first week of the period. On Sunday, March 6, the location – the only one open that day – tallied 612 voters in just eight hours of operation.

That high turnout, Rogers said, was partly due to people who came in their Sunday best.

“The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] had several churches involved,” Rogers said. “They brought at least three church vans.”

Those vans, according to New Hanover County NAACP branch president Deborah Dicks Maxwell, carried parishioners from Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, St. Stephen AME Church and St. Luke AMEZ Church. Maxwell said members of Mount Olive AME Church also voted that day but took their personal cars.

“This is a way to get people that are already in church to go and vote,” said Maxwell, who said this was not the first time they’ve participated in the “Souls to the Polls” movement that happens during each election. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget to go during the week when you’re working and have other things going on.”

Maxwell said they didn’t get as many people involved this year as they have in previous elections.

“We started kind of late this year, otherwise we would’ve had more people,” said Maxwell, whose organization helps provide transportation to voting locations for anyone in New Hanover County during the early voting period and on Election Day itself. “But the numbers validate themselves that day.”

On Friday, March 11, the day before the early voting period ended, 2,818 people tallied votes across New Hanover County. It was the largest turnout of all 10 days.

Maxwell is hoping that the good turnout will continue today, Election Day itself, when the NAACP will be helping people get to their voting precincts rather than the early poll locations.

“We’re not here to tell you who to vote for – that’s your personal choice, your personal ballot,” said Maxwell, saying those in need of a ride can call (910) 264-8298. “We just want citizens to exercise their basic right to vote and make an informed decision.”

North Carolina will be joining several other states in holding their primary elections on Tuesday, March 14. Port City Daily will have results from that night, which in addition to the presidential primaries, include crowded races for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners (Republican) and New Hanover County Board of Education (Republican and Democrat).

Sample ballots can be found here on the county’s Board of Elections website.