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1,500-plus cast ballots on first day of early voting

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Voters fill out their ballots on the first day of early voting at the Pasquotank County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, October 18, 2018

More than 1,500 Albemarle voters cast ballots Wednesday on the first day of early voting for the Nov. 6 election, with several counties besting their first-day turnout for the May 8 primary.

About 600 of those votes were cast in Pasquotank County. Another 271 were cast in Perquimans County; 243 in Chowan County; 235 in Currituck County; and 189 in Camden County. The turnout figures in both Currituck and Camden were higher than on the first day of early voting for the May primary when 99 and 123 voters, respectively, cast ballots.

Pasquotank voters navigated through a small army of candidates and their supporters to cast ballots at the county Board of Elections Office.

Debbie Keeling said Wednesday she wasn’t a very political person, declining to say who she voted for. But she implored whomever voters elect to focus on health care. Seniors and children need to be better taken care of, whether through Medicare and Social Security or Medicaid, which can serve children of poor families.

James Reel was less circumspect, stating he voted for state Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, for the state Senate in District 1. He didn’t give a specific reason why, but described himself as an independent dissatisfied with the Democratic Party.

Reel also said he voted for Tommy Wooten, a Republican, for sheriff, and Sharon Warden in the non-partisan Outside City race for the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education. Reel said he knew Warden, the school board’s incumbent chairwoman, and thought she had done a good job. Warden is one of three candidates running for two Outside City seats. The others are George Archuleta and Ron Payne.

Reel wouldn’t say who he voted for county commissioner, but commented he hoped to see younger candidates elected.

Velma and Ron Blackmon said the constitutional amendments on the ballot were very important to them, and that they generally voted against them. Velma Blackmon said she felt the amendments were being offered for the wrong reasons, alleging the Republicans, who control the Legislature, promoted them for their political benefit.

Ron Blackmon said the amendment requiring voters to show photo identification was put on the ballot in response to a “non-issue” and is “designed as a barrier” to some voters.

Velma Blackmon declined to say who she voted for in the Senate race, but said she supported Elizabeth City Police Sgt. Eddie Graham for sheriff, and Payne for a seat on the school board.

Velma Blackmon said Graham, a Democrat, has shown “sincerity and earnestness,” and she supported him — though she joked she hopes he’d do the job of sheriff without any run-ins with her.

As for Payne, she said she supported him because of his background as a principal at Northeastern High School. She considered that valuable experience to bring to the job of school board member.

Numerous Pasquotank candidates were on-hand outside the board of elections office at midday on Wednesday, as they looked to catch voters swinging by the polls on their lunch breaks. One was Democratic Commissioner Charles Jordan, who is one of four candidates running for one of two at-large seats. The other candidates include Commissioner Bill Sterritt, a Democrat, and Republicans Josh Tunnell and Barry Overman.

“So far, so good,” Jordan said, explaining he was more optimistic now than in 2010, when he ran for commissioner and lost.

“I’ve tried to make myself known,” said Jordan, explaining he’s not only been campaigning hard but has served on numerous local boards.

Jordan and his campaign supporters also offered support for Phelps’ Senate run. He said Phelps had personally visited the county many times, and made himself available to voters. Constituents don’t want someone they only see on TV or hear on the radio, Jordan added.

Sterritt was present as well, and handed out flyers listing his years of community involvement. At-large candidates should not take any votes for granted, he said. Only a few votes will separate the second-place candidate, who will get elected, and the third-place candidate, who will not, he predicted.

Graham said he continues campaigning hard, and will be at the polls every day of early voting.

“We’ve still got work to do,” he said.

Warden said she felt positive about her chances of winning re-election. Though she believes many voters have decided by now who they’re voting for, “it doesn’t hurt to talk to people,” she said. Warden added that she changed a few voters’ minds last time she ran.

Payne said he’s planning a lot of door-to-door campaigning during the early voting period. These final days are vital, he explained.

“We’re down to the wire,” he said. “It’s like the last two minutes of a basketball game.”

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