LUMBERTON — Voters in Lumberton are taking advantage of the early one-stop voting period, especially those who can cast their ballots for the District 5 council seat currently held by John Cantey.
As of late Friday afternoon, 366 of the eligible 1,727 voters in District 5 had voted in the race that is pitting Cantey against political newcomer Paul Matthews. That is more than a third of all the ballots that had been cast during early voting by mid-afternoon on Friday in all 15 municipalities.
“Countywide, the District 5 race in Lumberton has so far had the highest turnout of voters for this year’s municipal elections,” said Tina Bledsoe, interim director of the Robeson County Board of Elections. “It’s beating all of the other races hands down.”
Bledsoe said Friday afternoon that 1,040 of the 18,885 county residents eligible to vote in the Nov. 5 municipal elections have participated in the early voting period that began on Oct. 17. Early voting continues at the Board of Elections Office on North Walnut Street through 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2. There are not satellite voting sites for this election, which ends on Nov. 5.
Bledsoe said that the number of voters who have cast their ballots so far during the early voting period is about average for municipal election years. She said more voters come out to the polls early when it is not just a municipal election year, but also includes the election of countywide, state and federal officials.
“As is always the pattern, the number of voters coming out to votes starts out with a bang, then slows down, and then picks up at the end again with the procrastinators,” Bledsoe said.
According to Bledsoe, during the municipal election years of 2009 and 2011, 995 and 1,239 voters respectively cast ballots during the early voting period.
In the other Lumberton Council races that are contested, there has also been a significant amount of early voting, Bledsoe said. She said that in District 2, where incumbent John “Big Wayne” Robinson is being challenged by Ken Windley, a former Robeson County manager, 113 voters had cast ballots by Friday afternoon.. The District 3 race between incumbent Jackie Taylor and Burnis Wilkins had 145 ballots cast, and District 8, where incumbent Erich Hackney is running unopposed, had six early votes cast, Bledsoe said.
According to Bledsoe, this is the last year that new voters can register and vote on the same day during the one-stop period. She also said that in 2016, voters will need to present an ID before they can cast their ballots.
This year, council members will be elected in all 15 of Robeson County’s municipalities. Mayors will be elected in 11 municipalities, but not in Lumberton.