Early voting slow and steady

Posted 10/25/19

Turnout for early voting for Chatham County’s municipal elections has been slow and steady since its start on Oct. 16.

Just 174 residents have cast their votes in four days of early voting so …

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Early voting slow and steady

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Turnout for early voting for Chatham County’s municipal elections has been slow and steady since its start on Oct. 16.

Just 174 residents have cast their votes in four days of early voting so far with a majority of them — 160 — cast in the Pittsboro election. Only 12 Siler City residents have cast their ballots with only two in Goldston heading to the polls so far.

The discrepancy in turnout between the municipalities is likely due to several factors. Goldston has no contested races and typically averages about 6 percent turnout during municipal elections. In addition, the only early voting site this year is at the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Pittsboro, which may account for the difference in turnout between Pittsboro and Siler City thus far.

Municipal elections tend to have smaller turnouts than general election years. In 2017, voter turnout in Pittsboro was 19 percent, or 606 voters, while in Siler City turnout was closer to 26 percent with 1,470 voters. In the municipal election before that in 2015, which is a more similar election year in terms of races on the ballot, turnout in Pittsboro was 31 percent with Siler City at about 18.5 percent.

According to Chatham County Board of Elections Executive Director Pandora Paschal, lower turnout is not wholly unexpected.

“The thing about municipal elections is not a lot of excitement is generated,” she noted. “But it usually picks up. Some people are going to vote no matter what, but some people need a little nudge. We want participation.”

Paschal also noted that early voting also coincides with the N.C. State Fair, which can sometimes draw people away from early voting. In addition, based on new state guidelines, there is only one day of Saturday early voting which will occur this Saturday. As a result of both of those, the board chose to include extended hours for the last two days of early voting on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

There are three contested races on this year’s municipal ballot. In Siler City, Siler City Mayor John Grimes is being contested by Jackie Adams and Albert Reddick. And Commissioner Mike Constantino (District 3) running for re-election against Curtis Brown and Timothy (Cookie) Brown. There are also two referenda on the Siler City ballot regarding beer and wine sales in the town’s limits. Commissioners Larry Cheek (District 2) and Bill Haiges (District 4) are running unopposed.

In Pittsboro, the only contested race is for three available board of commissioners’ seats. Incumbents John Bonitz and Jay Farrell are running to retain their seats against Pam Cash-Roper, Heather Johnson, Bridget Perry, Kyle Shipp and Lonnie West. Pittsboro mayoral candidate Jim Nass is running unopposed.

There will be four polling sites open on election day, Nov. 5. There is a temporary change of polling location for West Siler City residents on election day this year. The West Siler City Precinct will vote at the Paul Braxton Gymnasium, located at 115 S. 3rd Ave. in Siler City. Voters in the East Siler City Precinct will vote where they have in the past, the Earl B. Fitts Community Center at 111 South Third Ave. in Siler City. On election day, Pittsboro residents will vote at the Multipurpose Room at Central Carolina Community College at 764 West St. in Pittsboro. Goldston residents will vote at Goldston Town Hall, located at 40A Coral Ave. in Goldston.

The East and West Siler City Precincts in Chatham County will be testing new voting equipment on Election Day. The county is purchasing new voting equipment from Hart InterCivic as its current equipment needs to be replaced. Per state statute, the county must test the equipment in one precinct prior to full implementation during the 2020 primary election.

For more information on the 2019 election, visit the Chatham County Board of Elections website or call 919-545-8500.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMan n@Chathamnr.com.


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