The election for municipal seats in towns and cities throughout Richmond County has already begun with early voting.
Eligible voters may cast their ballots at the Board of Elections office at 221 S. Hancock St., Rockingham. Early voting — which began Oct. 20 — is allowed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 4. On Nov. 5 the Board of Elections office will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for early voting.
Although early voting is under way in Richmond County, did you know it is actually absentee voting?
According to the Early Voting Information Center, the first absentee ballots were used in 1864 during the Civil War to provide soldiers with the opportunity to vote. Today, if you’re in the military, a student, or out of the country, you are always able to request an absentee ballot and vote absentee, no matter what state you live in.
What’s changed in the last 20 years is the growth of no-excuse absentee voting and the introduction of alternative in-person voting. In the late 1970s, California was the first state to experiment with no-excuse absentee voting, though it wasn’t until the late 1980s that this method of voting really gained popularity.
Today, people who are voting during early voting in Richmond County are taking part in no-excuse absentee voting, which means they have chosen to vote early but don’t have — or need — a reason like deployment or school elsewhere.
“We use a retrievable ballot system,” said Connie Kelly, director of the Board of Elections in Richmond County.
That is how they cut down on chances of fraud or abuse. If you cast a ballot during early voting, you filled out an application. That application has a number that matches your ballot. That way, if you go to vote on election day, they can verify that you’ve already voted. This happened, perhaps accidentally, several years ago, according to Kelly.
“He was an older man,” she said. “I don’t think he was trying to commit fraud.”
Although the absentee ballot has numbers that match your application, the ballot on election day won’t bear any signs of who filled it out.
Kelly said the first day of early voting has “been pretty slow. We had 25 people come in. It usually picks up over time. There’s not a lot of turnout from the Hoffman and Norman areas, probably because of inconvenience. Our highest turnout is usually Rockingham but Hamlet has been up there, too.”
When the pace picks up, the Board of Elections is prepared.
“We always have extra help during seasonal election time,” said Kelly.
Not all states have no-excuse absentee voting. Many states in the eastern half of the country require an excuse for an absentee ballot, and don’t have early voting. Many states in the western half of the country allow for absentee and early voting. Some states have regular and early voting and Washington and Oregon have mail-only voting. Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey and Utah allow people to register as permanent absentee voters.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 43, or by email at email@example.com.