ROCKINGHAM — Voters in North Carolina have set records for early voting across the state — and Richmond County is no exception.
According to Connie Kelly, elections director, 11,437 county voters marked their ballots between Oct. 20 and Nov. 5. That’s 38 percent of Richmond County’s 30,670 registered voters.
“It was a great turnout,” she told the Daily Journal in an email Monday. “Very impressed.”
Kelly said high number of early voters “will definitely help” when it comes to managing the polls on Tuesday, “but I still believe we have a very busy day.”
The main site for early voting was at the Cooperative Extension Office. There were also voting booths set up at Cole Auditorium, Ellerbe Town Hall and the Norman Community Center, the latter of which was a site added this year to keep those in the northern end of the county from having to drive to Rockingham.
“Only 100 voters voted over the four days we were open,” Kelly said. “It was a good idea, but not very cost effective.”
The statewide average was more than 45 percent, with nearly 3.1 million voters getting a jump start to avoid the Election Day lines, the Associated Press reports.
Unofficial totals show this year’s early in-person voting was 15 percent higher than in 2012, according to the AP, with a 13 percent increase in mail-in, military and overseas ballots. In Richmond County, however, there were only 65 more voters, Kelly said.
North Carolina is considered a key battleground state in the presidential election. The New York Times reports that Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are tied up in the Tar Heel State, with 15 electoral votes up for grabs.
The governor’s race and U.S. Senate contest have also been tight, with Democratic challengers Roy Cooper and Deborah Ross outraising Gov. Pat McCrory and Sen. Richard Burr, respectively, according to the AP.
The re-drawing of Congressional districts earlier this year moves Richmond and other counties along U.S. 74 from being represented by Rep. Richard Hudson to Rep. Robert Pittenger, both Republicans. Pittenger is being challenged by Democrat Christian Cano.
While it remains likely Republicans will extend control of the General Assembly for two more years, Democrats could collect enough seats to prevent veto-proof majorities in the House, the Senate or both, according to the AP. That would give the next governor more bargaining power.
Republicans currently control 75 of the 120 seats in the House and 34 of the 50 Senate seats. Democrats would need to win five additional Senate seats or four in the House to sustain vetoes, the AP reports. A handful of races in Wake, Mecklenburg and adjoining counties could decide the outcome.
State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, who won the 2014 election, faces opposition from Anson County educator Dannie Montgomery.
State Reps. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, and Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, are both unopposed.
Locally, five candidates are vying for three seats on the Richmond County Board of Commissioners. Kenneth Robinette, board chairman, John Garner, vice-chairman, and Jimmy Capps are looking to keep their spots, while being challenged by Donnie Richardson and Tavares Bostic.
Also on the ballot are several judicial seats, most of them unchallenged. However, District Court Judge Michael Stone of Hoke County is squaring off against Angela Carter of Robeson County.
There’s one seat up for the officially nonpartisan state Supreme Court, but the court’s political balance could shift to the Democrats if Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan defeats Associate Justice Bob Edmunds. Edmunds is one of four Republicans on the seven-member court. Morgan’s a Democrat. A Democratic majority could serve as a stronger counterweight to a Republican-led legislature.
Records from the Richmond County Board of Elections show that 17,407 voters are registered as Democrats, 5,759 as Republicans, 70 as Libertarians and 7,434 are unaffiliated.
Broken down along ethnic lines, 10,196 are black, 18,868 are white, 421 are American Indian and 120 are Asian. Ninety-nine are registered as being multi-racial, 462 as “other” and 504 are undesignated.
The county also has more women voters (16,494) than men (13,851). There are also 325 registered voters whose gender is not specified.
WHERE TO VOTE
Richmond County is divided into the following 16 precincts and voting locations:
• Rockingham No. 1: City of Rockingham Parks & Recreation (Browder Park), 1311 Rockingham Road, Rockingham.
• Rockingham No. 2: Leath Memorial Library (Calvin Little Room), 412 E. Franklin St., Rockingham.
• Rockingham No. 3: Roberdell United Methodist Church fellowship hall, 1304 Roberdell Road, Rockingham.
• Wolf Pit No. 1: East Rockingham Senior Center, 135 Safie Sixth St., Rockingham.
• Wolf Pit No. 2: Community Church recreation building, 193 Mill Road, Rockingham.
• Wolf Pit No. 3: Cordova School, 194 Church St., Cordova.
• Wolf Pit No. 4: Ellerbe Grove Baptist Church, 162 Ellerbe Grove Church Road, Rockingham.
• Marks Creek No. 1: First United Methodist Church fellowship hall, 300 Charlotte St., Hamlet.
• Marks Creek No. 2: First Presbyterian Church fellowship hall, 200 Rice St., Hamlet.
• Beaver Dam No. 1: Fletcher’s Chapel United Methodist Church fellowship hall, 108 McCoy Drive, Hoffman.
• Beaver Dam No. 2: Mount Zion United Church of Christ fellowship hall, 986 Ledbetter Road, Rockingham.
• Mineral Springs No. 1: Ellerbe Town Hall, 108 W. Page St., Ellerbe.
• Mineral Springs No. 2: Norman Community Center, 107 E. Moore St., Norman.
• Steeles No. 1: Mangum Community Building, 5838 Grassy Island Road, Mount Gilead.
• Steeles No. 2: Parsons Grove Baptist Church fellowship hall, 561 Teddar Road, Mount Gilead.
• Black Jack No. 1: Mount Pleasant Community Building, 876 Grassy Island Road, Ellerbe.
Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
A federal court ruling last summer eliminated requirements that most people show photo identification to vote in person. Ballots cast by people voting Tuesday in the wrong precinct in their home county also will be counted.
People filling out traditional absentee ballots must return them to their county elections office by 5 p.m. Tuesday or get them postmarked by Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.