Getting Scotland County voters to cast ballots ahead of the May 8 primary has been slow going.
Since the early voting began on April 19, about 561 people have cast ballots with the county Board of Elections.
The low turnout has left election officials scratching their heads as to the reason. As a result of poor turnout, three of the eight one-stop judges have been sent home. An additional judge could go home Friday, if voting does not pick up.
“It has been very, very slow and I can’t explain why,” said Dell Parker, county Board of Elections director. “Information about early voting has been on the radio and in the newspaper. I don’t have a clue what’s going on.”
Parker said as of Wednesday at 5 p.m., a total of early 117 ballots had been cast in Scotland County.
Here is breakdown of ballots cast each day since the process began last week: Thursday, 86 ballots cast; Friday,142 ballots cast; Monday, 95 ballots cast; and Tuesday, 121 ballots cast.
There were about early 2,769 ballots cast here in the county during the 2008 presidential election.
“That averaged out to about 229 votes a day,” Parker said. “There were times when we had as many as 300 come in a day. We are nowhere near that this time around.”
Parker suggested that the Democratic primary in 2008 between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may have pushed turnout that year.
“It could have been the primary,” Parker said. “Scotland is heavily Democratic and that may have something to do with it. Of course, that is just a guess.”
Kenton Spencer, chairman of the Scotland County Democratic Party, said there could be a number of factors keeping voters home, including the failure of candidates to reach the electorate with a clear message.
He added that many Scotland voters may still be undecided.
Spencer’s GOP counterpart — Bill Owens — suggested that voters may be suffering from “political overload.”
“There are so many candidates and so much information by way of phones call and letters and mailers, that I think people are just saturated,” said Owens, who chairs the county Republican Party.
Early voting will continue until May 5. Voters get to choose a Republican presidential nominee and candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and other Council of State positions. There are also primaries for Congress, county commissioner, as well as a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would make traditional marriage the only domestic legal union recognized in the state.
Ballots may be cast at the Scotland County Annex Conference Room, 231 East Cronly Street. That location will be open Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On May 5, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Any registered North Carolina voter may choose to vote in person using early voting, which is also called one-stop because first-time eligible voters can register and vote on the same day.
“I’m all for early voting,” Owens said. “The more the merrier. If you wait until the last day, you may be unable to vote for whatever reason. The thing to do is vote early and I hope people will do that.”