Voters say they miss out when towns choose not to offer early voting

Posted October 15, 2015

Early voting site

— As they prepare to head overseas next month, Ronnie Sue Pfeiffer and her husband, Cap, wanted to make sure to cast their ballots in Conway's hotly contested mayoral election. They were surprised and outraged when they were told that wasn't an option.

Conway, like eight other communities in Northampton County and a handful of other small towns across the state, has chosen not to offer voters the option to cast ballots by mail or early in person. For most of those towns, it is a cost-saving measure.

"We travel right much, and we usually do absentee ballots," Ronnie Sue Pfeiffer said Thursday. "We have done it many times, and it was a shock to us to find out it was done away with."

Both she and her husband are 65 and say this election will be the first one of consequence in some time that they will miss casting ballots.

Federal and statewide elections are governed by a detailed list of laws and rules that set how absentee voting takes place both in person and through the mail. Those regulations ensure that voters who are traveling like the Pfeiffers, military voters and students away from home can participate in elections.

But local town governments, many of which pay for their municipal elections, have the option of setting their own early voting rules. According to a list posted by the State Board of Elections, towns such as Vanceboro in Craven County, Fontana Dam in Graham County and Minnesott Beach in Pamlico County have opted not to pay for early voting.

"This is not the first year that Conway has opted out," said Susie Squire, the elections supervisor in Northampton County.

In a typical year, Squire said, town elections would be mainly uncontested, so there is little demand for absentee ballots. Making the change saved the roughly 800-resident town between $1,200 and $1,500, she said.

"This is something they opted for. It's not something the county board can decide," she said.

But some in the community, including the Pfeiffers, said that decision was a bad one because this year's election is closely contested and could be decided by a handful of votes.

Cap Pfeiffer, who served on the local board of elections during the Gov. Jim Martin administration in the 1980s, said he was surprised by the move and said he couldn't imagine voters would tolerate a similar change to a statewide election.

"A local election is far more important to me," said Ronnie Sue Pfeiffer.

Conway Mayor Brian Bolton didn't immediately respond to a request for comment left on his mobile phone's voicemail.

The town's Facebook page on Thursday addressed "questions and concerns by local citizens regarding the discontinuance of Absentee Voting for the upcoming municipal election," saying that the "same type of resolution opting out of Absentee Voting was adopted for the November, 2013 municipal election."

Conway's resolution opting out of early and absentee voting was adopted on May 5.

"They did it legal, but being legal doesn't always mean being right," Cap Pfeiffer said.


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  • Jay Tanenbaum Oct 16, 2015
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    Very short sighted. First, our population is a whole lot more than it was when the Constitution was written. Second, lots of folks have to work on that day and can't take time off. And 3rd, there are way too many BOE that like to mess around with the machines by limiting how much in certain areas.

  • Nicolle Leney Oct 16, 2015
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    How is not at least offering absentee ballots legal?? What about a military person serving overseas? I can understand the legality of not doing early voting (I think it should be offered, but I understand that's the town's choice), but not offering absentee ballots is keeping some people from being able to exercise their right to vote, especially those who may be working to protect that right.

  • Timothy Watson Oct 16, 2015
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    And this is the kind of system we voted for???? How do you opted out of changing how and when a citizen can vote for the sake of saving money? That`s un-American. Many people have two jobs or crazy work hours in day and age. They cant take off because they need the money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table because companies does not pay a decent wage in this day and age too. People are more mobile now too such as the Pfeiffers.. Nothing wrong with that either. I see and feel their frustration. Why discourage them from voting or make it harder to vote? I agree with Cap Pfeiffer, They did it legally, but that does not make it right. Just like telling a lie over and over again does not make it true! Referring to the widespread abuse and fraud in our system voting. Straight Lie !!!

  • Matt Wood Oct 16, 2015
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    People waited in line for hours to vote and voter turnout was MUCH lower. But then, I guess you liked that.

  • Paul Stroud Oct 16, 2015
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    So, basically, what you people are saying is that you don't want all people to be able to vote. Just say it. Don't be afraid to say what you really mean ....

  • tarheelv Oct 15, 2015

    What about the 14 states that don't offer early voting? How did we EVER survive before early voting...in other words, before 1972, when, BTW, only 2 states offered it? Not absentee ballots, which have been around since the Civil War, I am talking early voting.

  • Charles Brown Oct 15, 2015
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    Early voting is a sham. One day. Period.

  • Dolly Butler Oct 15, 2015
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    I agree with Scooter Barrette. I am even in favor of voting online ...that is, making voting as easy as possible ...rather than finding barriers to put up.

  • Scooter Barrette Oct 15, 2015
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    Mr. Lewis, what if it were job related? If they were going to attend a family member's funeral overseas, would you feel any differently? This situation may be different, but in today's context of voting rights, anytime you disallow access to a public service, you're going to inadvertently prevent someone from expressing their given rights. It's not the "entire election system", its a form you fill out and a person who reads it.

  • Norman Lewis Oct 15, 2015
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    I have to advise the disgruntled would-be voters that the polling days are made available many days in advance and there is NO EXCUSE to complain the entire election system does not bend to their specific requirements. If this couple lives in Conway, there is NO EXCUSE they did not know an early ballot was not available. If this specific election was that important to them , they would have not scheduled a trip at that time.