While surrounding counties have expanded voting to include Sunday, Scotland County excluded that option this year, according to county Board of Elections Director Dell Parker.
“There was a group that came in to discuss Sunday voting in Scotland County, and the board did consider it but they did not put it on the schedule,” Parker said.
Proponents of Sunday voting, — approved in neighboring Robeson, Richmond, and Hoke counties — say the practice allows citizens to vote who may not otherwise have the chance.
“Anything that you can do to get people to vote, you would think that the Board of Elections would be quite inclined to do it,” said Laurinburg’s Walter Rogers, chairman of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus. “Statistics show that on the Sunday vote, the number of people turning out has been at a significantly higher rate than it has during regular voting days.”
Democracy North Carolina, an organization involved in promoting access to the polls, is also in support of Sundays voting.
“One of the advantages of polls voting is that many churches have cans and people can travel as a group,” said Nancy Shakir, Democracy North Carolina field organizer for Southeastern North Carolina. “That’s an advantage for people who don’t have transportation: senior citizens in particular and people with infirmities. This affords a way for people to get out and exercise their rights.”
Rogers added that many voters may simply be more inclined to venture to the polls in a group after Sunday church services.
“What has happened in the experiences that I’ve had is the church family steps in and the entire church’s members that have not voted come out as a group,” Rogers said. “It is certainly more motivational and people have more enthusiasm sometimes about doing things together.”
Shakir said that voting can be an equalizer between underrepresented groups and those with the money to sway results.
“Whether you’re a millionaire or poor as a church mouse, that’s one thing that everyone has in common - their one vote,” Shakir said.
But according to Parker, Scotland County residents will have plenty of time to exercise their right to that one vote in the established early voting hours, which include a Saturday.
“You’ve got 12 and a half days of one-stop early voting in Scotland County,” she said. “That’s 113 hours that someone can take advantage of early voting, in addition to 45 days of absentee voting by mail and 13 hours on Election Day.”
During the 2008 presidential election, the Scotland County Board of Elections opened the polls for an additional Saturday, bringing in only a “handful” of voters on that day.
Although officials expect a better turnout than they saw during the May primary election and July runoff, Parker said that the cost of opening the voting precinct on a Sunday would not likely be justified by the number of voters taking advantage of it.
“In Scotland County there is not an issue with people standing in a line, so with budgets being cut the money was not there,” Parker said. “They have all the opportunity in the world to come out and vote without adding a Sunday. I do anticipate us being very busy for this election, so I am staffing one-stop to accommodate a crowd every day.”
Early voting will begin on Oct. 18, with the Scotland County Board of Elections open from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The final day of early voting, Nov. 3, is a Saturday. The Board of Elections will be open from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. on that day.
On Nov. 6, Election Day, voters will vote at their local precincts, which will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.