DOBSON — A primary election is scheduled for Oct. 6 in Mount Airy, but city voters can get an early start on the process thanks to a program that began Thursday in Dobson.
In addition to voting early, the system is permitting citizens to both register and cast ballots at the same time — a practice that wasn’t expected to even exist for this year’s hotly contested city election.
“We have it back now, actually,” Director Susan Jarrell of the Surry County Board of Elections said Thursday of the same-day registration provision for early voting.
The allowing of this in North Carolina was one of the casualties of a sweeping 2013 state election-reform law passed by conservative lawmakers.
“Part of the House voter ID bill did away with same-day registration,” the Surry elections director explained.
“Then there was a court case, or a hearing, about whether or not it will continue,” Jarrell added. “We’re waiting on a judge to actually rule on it now.”
Until that litigation runs its course, North Carolina counties can continue offering one-stop registration as part of early voting, the local elections official said. This offers a reprieve to unregistered voters who did not sign up before the regular registration deadline of Sept. 11.
City residents wishing to register and vote after that deadline may appear in person at a one-stop absentee voting site, complete the voter-registration application form and provide proof of residence by presenting valid documents showing one’s present name and address.
Thursday’s launch of early balloting in Dobson preceded the opening of a satellite early voting station in Mount Airy next week.
The Dobson early voting location is the Surry Board of Elections office in the new county courthouse, on the lower level of the building.
Mount Airy voters can cast ballots there on regular business days from 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., from now through Oct. 2
The Dobson site also will host early voting on the Saturday before the Oct. 6 primary, from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Along with appealing to early birds, the offering of the service there enables someone who might be out of town and unable to cast ballots on the primary day itself to still vote.
That also is the intent behind the satellite early voting site in Mount Airy.
It will be set up on the lower level of the Municipal Building on South Main Street.
Early voting will take place there beginning next Wednesday, with the service to be available from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. each day through Oct. 2.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, the schedule for early voting at the satellite location is 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The county elections director is hoping for a good turnout not only on the primary day but during the early voting period for which extra manpower and financial resources are being devoted.
“Every year we have more and more people taking advantage of it,” she said of that service.
Jarrell also offered a reminder Thursday about the availability of absentee voting by mail.
The last day for someone to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them for the city primary is next Tuesday.
“With any election, you can have a ballot mailed to your home,” Jarrell said.
The absentee by mail program — for which no excuse is required — began on Sept. 4.
Under this process, all absentee requests must be submitted on an official form. County elections personnel no longer are allowed to accept handwritten informal requests. Forms are available on the Surry County Board of Elections website or by calling the office at 401-8225.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693.