Early voting got off to a heavy and historic start Thursday as 913 Scotland County citizens cast ballots for U.S. president and a number of state and local races.
Dell Parker, county elections director, surmised that a steady stream of voters may continue throughout the early voting period.
“I actually had predicted we would hit 1,000 today so we were pretty close to what I thought we would have,” said Parker. “If it goes by the number of voter registration cards we have processed, I would say that this is going to continue, but it’s a guessing game.”
In addition to the presidential race, several state-level positions are up for grabs as is the District 8 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and several seats on the Scotland County Board of Education.
“This is the first time in this country’s history that people from all walks of life are totally engaged in the voting process,” said Rena McNeil, who arrived at the Board of Elections early Thursday morning to be the first to cast a ballot in Scotland County. “When you’ve got somebody on a bicycle coming to the polls, when you’ve got people pushing babies, that says something about this country.”
Election officials across the state also reported long lines Thursday at early voting locations.Around 200,000 people took advantage of early voting in the county in the last presidential election.
In 2008, 30 percent of all votes nationwide for president were cast before Election Day.
One-stop voting ends the Saturday before the election. Unless otherwise posted, the One-Stop Voting Site is the conference room at the County Annex, 231 East Cronly Street. Normal hours for one-stop voting are Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m to 5 pm; and 8 am to 1 pm the Saturday before the election
For those who may still be undecided about their voting preferences, the Scotland County Ministerial Alliance will hold a community pride day on Saturday.
The event will encourage local residents to be proud of their community and encourage them to be conscientious in their voting choices, organizers said.
“People leaving the polls today, some of them are not doing their due diligence on voting like they should,” said state Rep. Garland Pierce. “They’re leaving a lot of people off, they’re not really doing educated voting.”
Several local candidates will offer their platforms, including Democrat Gene McLaurin, running against Republican Eugene McIntyre for the District 25 seat on the state Senate and Antonio Blue, the Democratic write-in candidate for the House of Representatives.
“This election is very important and we want to make sure that we distribute voter education and make our community aware of the voting process,” said the Rev. Darrell Gibson, also a member of the school board.
The community pride event will begin at 9 a.m. at Franklin Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church with presentations on Christian ethics and Christian unity from the Rev. Jamale Johnson of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville and the Rev. Reginald Wells of Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
The candidate forum will be from 11 a.m. until noon, followed by a session with county Sheriff Shep Jones and Johnny Evans, Laurinburg’s chief of police.
“With all the violence that we have in the community, there’s always talk of people who are down on Scotland County because there’s so much violence,” Gibson said. “We want our law enforcement to have a conversation with our community about ways that we can turn the violence around.”
The ministerial alliance will also hold the James H. Underwood Voting Day on Nov. 3, the last day of early voting and the only Saturday on the voting calendar. The gesture is in honor of Underwood, recently deceased school board member and assistant pastor of Galilee United Methodist Church.
“James was a community advocate as it relates to voting,” said Pierce. “If James were here today, he’d be out there in his truck getting people in, so we really maximize that day to get a lot of people to the polls.”
Local churches will be encouraged to provide for transportation of their members to the Board of Elections to cast their ballots.
“When people are angry, you don’t have to motivate them,” said Robert Malloy, president of the Scotland County NAACP. “When they’re not, there has to be some motivation to encourage people to do their due diligence, have pride in their community, and get out to the polls, because that is a right that people have died for.”
The alliance plans to offer refreshments available across the street from the Board of Elections on the final Saturday of early voting.