LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Elections’ new assistant director began her first day on the job on Monday having already gotten her feet wet as a precinct official and a temporary fill-in at the board’s office.
The board welcomed Lindsey Villela in a regular meeting that coincided with her first day. According to elections director Dell Parker, Villela’s predecessor Michael Gilmore was let go in April due to a “personnel matter.”
Villela, an Ohio native and longtime Laurinburg resident, served in the role of assistant director during last year’s municipal elections after the passing of longtime assistant Jerry Johnson.
“I started using her little by little, trying to get somebody in who could help me,” Parker said.
In 2011 and 2012, Villela worked as a precinct official, handling voter registration and sign-in during early voting and on Election Day at the Cronly Street annex polling place.
“I like to work with people — it was easy to catch on to,” she said.
She did not apply for the permanent position earlier this year, as she was considering remaining at home with her newborn, but accepted when Parker offered her the job.
“I called her the same day that we let him go and she said she would gladly come back,” said Parker. “She’s done a wonderful job — I think we’ve made an excellent choice.”
In other business on Monday, the board reflected on the execution of the May primary elections, discussing glitches and areas in need of improvement, including familiarization of precinct staff with the laptop computers that have replaced pen and paper at the polling places.
“In the next training, we won’t have the laptops on, we’ll let them sign them on, and let them print a test page,” said Parker. “That way they’ll know how to do that prior to the polls opening on election morning.”
Unaffiliated voters also posed a series of problems, as many arrived at their polling place without having determined which ballot they wished to vote. Unaffiliated voters may vote the ballot of any political party or the unaffiliated ballot.
“We told everybody to go over and look at the sample ballots and pick the one you want,” said board chair Hal Culberson. “However, even when they did that, when they got ready to vote, some of them said they wanted to vote for the sheriff’s race and it wasn’t on there.”
According to Parker, each voter may void up to three ballots, and per the state board of elections, precinct staff may only aid in their ballot selection by instructing them to peruse the sample ballots.
“By law we cannot say the sheriff’s race is on the Democratic ballot, because we could have been accused of pushing the Democratic Party,” she said.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.