SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — Early voting allows voters to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day and register on the same day — a process you can’t do when it gets busy on the big day.
In the Cape Fear Region, early voting turnout is a bit of a mix. In Pender County, just 199 voters turned out, given over 104 hours of early voting opportunity.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot,” Pender County Board of Elections Director Susan Williams said Monday. But given the total number of registered eligible voters, it’s comparable to neighboring county’s early turnout figures. With 5,637 eligible registered voters, Pender County’s early voting turnout percentage is 3.5%.
Five municipalities in Pender County have open contests this year: Town of Burgaw, the Village of St. Helena, Town of Atkinson, Surf City, and Town of Topsail Beach. The Town of Watha only holds elections for all elected officials every four years; next time voters in Watha get a chance to cast municipal ballots will be in 2021.
In 2017, Watha voters participated in the municipal election cycle, adding to the county’s total early voting number, 304. This gave the county a slightly higher voting turnout, “not that that should have made a big difference because it’s a tiny town,” Williams said.
In Brunswick County, early voting turnout is right on par with the last municipal election in 2017, just 0.01% lower. With 2,006 ballots cast early, total turnout compared to eligible registered voters is 3.17%.
“We are right on track,” Brunswick County Elections Director Sara Knotts said Monday.
Republican early voting turnout is a bit higher than Democrat turnout, by about a 1.4:1 ratio, according to data provided by Knotts. But given the registered party voter profile of Brunswick County, a right-leaning turnout is to be expected.
“Tomorrow will be what tells,” Knotts said. “We’ve got municipalities just from reading the newspapers are going to be exciting.” Belville 1, Brunswick County’s precinct that includes all of the Town of Belville and the majority of the Town of Leland, will likely have the highest turnout, according to Knotts. With 9,992 registered voters, this precinct has the most registered voters in the county.
Both Brunswick and Pender County are among the state’s 22 counties that use voting equipment that will soon be obsolete in December. State statute will decertify direct record electronic (DRE) systems, which do not produce a paper ballot.
In Brunswick County, election officials will test new equipment with its paper-based system, Hart Verity Voting 2.2 voting tabulators, in one Oak Island municipality. For voters, Knotts said the voting experience will be seamless. “We aren’t flashing lights, ‘This is something new,'” she said.
In Pender County, four precincts will be testing new equipment, the Printelect DS200 tabulator, according to Williams. After canvassing is over, Williams said the Board of Elections will review how the new equipment works in action.
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at firstname.lastname@example.org