Early voters for the May 4 primary in Brunswick County are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly are choosing Republican ballots at the four open polling places, according to county election officials.
Early voting continues through 1 p.m. Saturday. Three locations - the National Guard Armory in Shallotte, The Brunswick Center in Southport and North Brunswick High School in Leland - open each day at 10 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m. today and Friday. The fourth location, the Board of Elections office at the county government complex in Bolivia, opens at 8:30 a.m. each day and closes at 5 p.m. today and Friday.
As of noon Wednesday, more than 2,700 voters had cast ballots at the early voting locations and by absentee ballots.
The number is less than half the 5,681 people who cast early votes in the 2008 primary, but 2,100 more than the 622 who voted early in the 2006 primary.
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Of those who had voted by noon Wednesday, 2,462 were white and 266 black. American Indian voters, who cast the third highest number of votes, had cast 11 ballots. Of the total number of voters, 1,408 were men and 1,350 women.
The relatively low turnout so far is something of a surprise to county elections officials, who must estimate how many might vote and then determine the staffing needed to meet the needs of voters.
"We tormented over how many we thought would come to the polls," said Greg Bellamy, elections board director. He didn't say the total turnout he predicted.
Bellamy said that there are normally five poll workers assigned to most of Brunswick County's 23 precincts, but that some can do fine with only three. There must be workers to help identify voters when they arrive, set up machines for each voter, attend to curbside voters and monitor the overall situation.
At Shallotte's National Guard Armory Wednesday afternoon, workers smoothly handled a steady trickle of people and guarded a stash of cookies and other snacks on a table in the back of the voting room.
Outside, only Republican poll workers stood in unison and flashed their candidates' signs at incoming voters.
Missy Sellers, who was campaigning for N.C. Senate candidate Bill Rabon, said the crew of Republican campaign workers had seen only one Democrat campaigning at the Armory since Monday, and that was district attorney candidate Harold Pope from Columbus County. He stayed about a half hour, she said.
"Yesterday was really busy," Sellers said. Wednesday, she added, had been steady.
No one can know for sure what the numbers will mean to the candidates or if it favors Republican or Democratic candidates in the November election. But at least two of the voters in Shallotte Wednesday said they were energized by what they perceive happening in national politics.
Nell Eaddy of Holden Beach, who lives part of the year in Ireland, said she sees President Obama as dangerous, doing things that she questions constitutionally and, despite his pre-election rhetoric, things that are not transparent.
Paul Hursh of Supply, who is registered Republican, said there are good Republicans and good Democrats. But overall, he thinks an entirely new U.S. Congress might be a good idea.
"I'd like to change the whole slate," he said.