ALBEMARLE — With the final week of early voting underway in Stanly County, turnout has been down across the board compared to the last presidential primary cycle in 2016.
As of Saturday, the number of early voters was tallied at 1,597 people — the overall early turnout four years ago was 4,733 votes. The decrease in numbers has been a factor since the first day of early voting on Thursday, Feb. 13. Only 215 people came out to vote that day compared to the 475 people who voted during the first day in 2016.
Over 70% of the early votes so far — 1,124 — were conducted at Albemarle’s Stanly County Commons (1000 N. 1st St.) polling site and the other 473 votes were completed at Locust’s Joel Huneycutt Community Room (186 Ray Kennedy Dr.).
“It seems that a lot of the time, the last week of early voting is the busiest week that we have,” Kimberly Blackwelder, director of elections for the Stanly County Board of Elections, told SCJ. “We’ll probably see an uptick in the voting this week.”
The early voting sites are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, the final day of early voting. The primary is set for March 3 from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Because of last Thursday’s snow and winter weather, the sites were closed at 5 p.m. and reopened at 10 a.m. Friday morning.
One change in this primary cycle is the number of site options available. Due to an hourly mandate created by the North Carolina General Assembly and a lack of staffing, Stanly County has been forced to use two early voting sites this time instead of the four sites used in 2016.
“If we open sites other than the Board of Elections office, they’re now required to be open till 7:30 p.m. and to 3 p.m. on Saturdays; that means a longer day than when we had the other sites open in 2016,” Blackwelder said. “They were only open eight hours instead of 11 1/2 hours. It just makes it harder to find people to staff the sites when you’re required to be open for that number of hours.”
The 2020 primary ballot features two sections for federal offices: a presidential preference and a vote for one of North Carolina’s two U.S. Senate positions. The Republican ballot holds incumbent Thom Tillis, Paul Wright, Larry Holmquist and Sharon Y. Hudson as Senate options, while the Democratic ballot names Cal Cunningham, Erica D. Smith, Steve Swenson, Trevor M. Fuller and Atul Goel.
For the gubernatorial election, Dan Forest and Holly Grange are the Republican primary candidates and incumbent Roy Cooper and Ernest T. Reeves are the Democratic primary candidates.
The GOP ballot also includes four different races exclusive to the county. Republicans Scott Efird and Jann Lowder are running for the Board of Commissioners at-large seat. Meanwhile, Ashley Morgan, Peter Asciutto and Leon Eugene Warren are options for the Board of Commissioners District 5 bid.
Republicans Melvin B. Poole and Rufus S. Lefler III are battling for the Board of Education at-large seat. For the Board of Education District 5 position, Ryan McIntyre and Carla Poplin are the two available candidates.
The Democratic ballot has a few of its own exclusive races — it names Tarsha Ellis and Geoffrey Hoy as options for the N.C. State Senate District 33 nomination, and names Matt Leatherman, Ronnie Chatterji and Dimple Ajmera as N.C. Treasurer options.