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A sluggish start to early voting Thursday was slowed further when the area was hit with a deluge of rain, but officials are hoping residents head to the polls leading up to the March 3 primary.
“I’m hoping we’ll be busier,” said Wilson County Elections Director Rená Morris, noting local voter turnout for the spring 2016 primary was 33.05%. “I thought we would be busier than we have been, but of course, today is the first day.”
By lunchtime Thursday, 130 people had voted.
All of Wilson County’s 55,264 voters are eligible to cast a ballot in the election, which includes the presidential primary. According to voter records, Wilson has 27,560 Democrats, 13,248 Republicans, 14,136 unaffiliated voters, 182 Libertarians and 38 residents registered with other parties.
Retiring state Sen. Rick Horner took advantage of the ability to change his registration back to Wilson County and vote in the same visit Thursday at the Wilson County Board of Elections.
“I like to get it out of the way and beat the crowds,” Horner said of voting early. “It is amazing that nearly 40% of voters vote early.”
The most hotly followed contest is the presidential primary, which includes four options for Republicans — Donald J. Trump, Joe Walsh, Bill Weld or no preference — as well as 17 options for Libertarians. Voters casting a Democratic ballot have 15 names or “no preference” to choose from, but only eight — Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Joseph R. Biden, Michael R. Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar — remain in the race.
“There is a deadline for withdrawing your candidacy for that very reason because once the ballots are printed, they are printed,” Morris said. “We just don’t have the time to reprint everything because we have all sorts of other administrative tasks to do before an election.”
Morris encourages people to exercise their right to vote in every election.
“I think it is important to vote because I like to complain, and if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain,” Horner said.
Wilson County has hired 136 folks to work the polls during the primary, but Morris is hopeful more will step up.
“We can always use more help, especially in some of our larger precincts,” she said. “With November coming up, we’ll need even more.”
No identification is required to cast a ballot in the primary as voters need only to state their full name and address. For voters interested in an absentee ballot, applications can be filled out with the state and requested by Feb. 25 for submission by mail before 5 p.m. on March 3.
“There is so much information available out there, so there is no excuse to cast a ballot without doing your research first,” Morris concluded.
When To Vote
Early voting in Wilson County began Thursday and ends Feb. 29 at the Wilson County Board of Elections office at 112 Douglas St. in downtown Wilson. Early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Early voting will also be held on two Saturdays, Feb. 22 and Feb. 29; on both days, the hours for early voting are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday early voting will be held on Feb. 23, from 1-5 p.m.
The primary election is March 3. The voter registration deadline has passed, but residents can register and vote during early voting at the Board of Elections office.