LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Elections continued planning for the May 6 election during a meeting on Tuesday.
Board members Hal Culberson and William Bullard approved 10 absentee ballots submitted by mail, checking for the required signatures on the ballot envelope.
“Of course we do not open them, we just look at the outside,” Culberson said. “They have already been checked to be sure that they are registered voters, and we require two signatures on the outside of the form witnessing that the actual person signed and put it the envelope.”
In previous years, only one witness signature was required for an absentee ballot. The additional required signature has been one of many changes to state election law this year. One signature is still permissible if it is that of a notary, complete with seal.
The elections office has received fewer absentee ballots than expected so far, with a total of 19.
“If absentee by mail is any sign whatsoever, which I’m praying that it is not, this will be a very slow election,” said elections director Dell Parker. “Normally up to this point they would have had 25 or more.”
Also on Monday, the board continued assigning staff to work at each precinct on Election Day. At the county’s busier precincts — 1, 3, 4, and 7 — three people will be assigned to check voters in on laptop computers.
Most precincts will also require two staff members at ballot stations, one at curbside, a chief judge, and one handling provisional ballots — which will not be counted this year. Last year’s municipal election was the first to use laptops at each precinct, but the software used to check voters in has changed since then, which could cause Election Day to get to a slow start.
“Since this is really the first use of laptops, they possibly could be a little slower,” Culberson said. “Once they get used to it, we expect that to save us time.”
Training will be held for all precinct staff prior to Election Day. In the meantime, Board of Elections members are still making phone calls in the hope of filling the staff roster for each voting station with a fair balance of Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated.
“What we try to do as a board is we try to put the same number of Democrats as we do Republicans and we try to incorporate some unaffiliated in there,” Parker said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. We are a major Democratic county so you will see where we put a lot of Democrats out there because that’s what we have.”
Though by law precinct staff should only work in their home precinct, within five days of the election the Board of Elections may assign workers to other precincts to be sure that all polling places are fully operational.
“We never know what’s going to happen election morning, but what we can do and what we’ve done in the past, if we think Precinct 1 might have too many, we will narrow that count down and move them to a precinct where we’re short,” said Parker.
“We’ll just make sure they all come to training and then come Election Day we’ll put them where they’re needed.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.