Early voting turnout low in Dobbins Heights

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

October 2, 2013

Roughly three-quarters of Dobbins Heights residents are registered to vote, but only 5.9 percent of them have cast a ballot during early voting, which ends Saturday.

Three candidates are seeking to fill two council seats up for grabs in the tiny town of 866 people.Incumbents Angeline K. David and Thomas D. White are seeking re-election while challenger Tyre’ L. Holloway hopes to garner enough support to knock one of them from the council.

Connie Kelly, director of elections for Richmond County, said there are 604 registered voters as through 3 p.m. Wednesday, only 36 ballots were cast. The number of Democrats vastly outnumber any other party in Dobbins Heights; there are 516 Democrats, 12 Republicans, 75 unaffiliated voters and one Libertarian.

“I think this is a very low turnout,” Kelly said. “It’s always disappointing when the turnout is low because you feel the voters aren’t participating” in the democratic process.

Kelly called voting a privilege, but “a lot of people take advantage of it only for national elections.”

Historically, the turnout is on par or even exceeds recent elections. In the 2011 municipal election, 57 ballots were cast during early voting and 199 people, or nearly 33 percent, of registered voters made their way to the polling place. In 2009, only 30 peole cast a ballot during early voting and only 130 total ballots, or 21.5 percent, were submitted.

Kelly said she attributed the higher voter turnout in 2011 to the mayoral race.

Dobbins Heights contests nonpartisan contests for city council and is the only municipality in Richmond County that chooses to stage its elections in a run-off method. Kelly said that means if the top two vote-getters fail to earn a majority of votes cast, then the third-place candidate could seek a run-off for the second and final seat between the lower of the top two vote-getters.

That run-off would be held with the general election on Nov. 5.

Early voting is available during regular business hours at the county board of elections office, located at 221 S. Hancock St. in Rockingham. Saturday’s early voting hours are set to begin at 8 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday. The lone polling place for Dobbins Heights voters that day is located at First United Methodist Church fellowship hall, located at 300 Charlotte St. in Hamlet. The polling place will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.