DOBSON — Although the primary itself won’t occur until May 6, citizens can get a jump on the democratic process beginning today.
Early voting ahead of the primary is now under way at the Surry County Board of Elections office in Dobson, and will extend to sites in Mount Airy and Elkin on Monday.
“We are open, and please come out and vote,” was the word Wednesday afternoon from Susan Jarrell, county elections director.
While early voting is a regular service preceding primary and general elections in the county, there are some changes this time around compared to previous years, due to action in Raleigh in 2013.
That includes the one-stop absentee early voting period being shortened by one week. However, there’s an extra benefit for the primary which should give voters more flexibility, according to Jarrell.
“We are open two Saturdays,” she said of the early voting schedule for the site in Dobson.
“We normally are open one, but because of the shortened time period we are open this Saturday,” Jarrell said, along with the usual first Saturday in May before the primary.
This should encourage more voter traffic for the primary, compared to the normally low turnout for those elections that decide party nominees for the general election in November.
“We want to give every opportunity for people to vote,” the elections director said.
For the next two Saturdays, ballots can be cast at the board of elections office from 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The hours there today and Friday are 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., which also will be the case next Monday through Friday.
Another change involves voters who aren’t registered, who in the past have been able to both register and cast ballots during the early voting period. But effective this year, those who weren’t registered had to do so by an April 11 deadline to participate in early voting or on the day of the primary.
The elections office is on the lower level of the new county courthouse on Kapp Street in Dobson.
Mount Airy Site
Early voting in Mount Airy gets under way next week at the Surry County Human Services Center at 1218 State St. (behind Arby’s).
Hours there will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday of next week before the primary.
The same schedule will be observed in Elkin at the Elkin Rescue Squad building at 940 N. Bridge St.
A qualified voter can cast ballots at any of the three early voting locations.
The primary will serve as the regular election for the Surry County Board of Education, for which three seats are at stake.
Another local race of interest is a Republican primary for the Mount Airy District seat on the county board of commissioners now held by Larry Phillips, who is seeking re-election.
Among other choices, 11 Democratic and Republican candidates will be on the ballot vying for the seat of Rep. Howard Coble, whose district covers Surry and who is retiring when his present term ends later this year.
Also, 13 candidates of the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties, including the incumbent, will be in the running for nominations for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.
Unlike the fall general election, when voters make choices for all races on their ballot, primaries are limited based on the party registration of the voter.
Registered Democratic or GOP voters can cast a ballot in their party primaries. But registered Republicans can’t vote for Democrats or vice versa.
Unaffiliated voters can choose to cast ballots for either party, but not both.
Jarrell is hoping that regardless of party affiliation and scheduling, those registered in Surry County will remember their civic duty at some point during the primary season.
“I do hope everyone will come out and vote.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.