Unlike in years past, Johnston County residents face a hard deadline for registering to vote.
The primary on May 6 is the first election in recent years that will not offer same-day voter registration. That means the last day to register to vote in the primaries is Friday, April 11, the statewide cutoff of 25 days before the election.
In past elections, if someone missed the deadline to register, he or she could still register if they voted early. The voter would simply fill out a registration form and then receive a ballot.
Last year, the N.C. General Assembly made major changes to the state’s voting laws, with same-day registration getting the ax. Lawmakers also shortened the length of the early-voting period from 17 days to 10 days, and they added a voter-ID requirement, though that will not be a requirement for the May primary.
As of last week, about 109,500 people were registered to vote in Johnston County, which has a population of about 175,000. Of the registered voters, about 42,000 are Republicans, about 39,000 are Democrats, and some 29,000 are unaffiliated.
In the 2010 general election, 477 voters registered in Johnston County using same-day registration, and 559 people switched parties. Statewide in 2010, about 21,000 people used same-day registration to register to vote, and about 39,000 used it to change parties.
Leigh Ann Price, supervisor of the Johnston County Board of Elections, said ending same-day registration would save her office money. “I think it’s a good idea because in the past, we had long lines, people trying to do same-day registration, and then when they get up there, they were really registered,” she said.
Before this year’s change, Price said, each early-voting site would have one person in charge of handling same-day registration. Now, she doesn’t have to pay someone to be there. “It cuts down a lot on personnel and saves us money,” she said.
Price said the county has five early-voting sites. With each employee costing about $1,000 over the course of early voting, she figures the change will save her office about $5,000.
Though the change helps the bottom line, Price said the end to same-day registration will make voting harder for some Johnstonians. “That was an option they had,” she said. “There was always a deadline, and if they didn’t meet the deadline, then they had a second option.”
To register to vote, first check to see whether you’re already registered. The N.C. Board of Elections has voter look-up on its website, ncsbe.gov/webapps/voter_search/
If you are not registered to vote, go to the Johnston County Board of Elections website at johnstonnc.com/joconcelections. Print out the registration form, fill it out and mail it to the Board of Elections. Call the Board of Elections at 919-989-5095 with questions.