Smithfield Herald

Early voting starts April 24

Early voting for the May primary starts Thursday, April 24, and voters can cast ballots in races ranging from county commissioner, to clerk of court, to the U.S. House and Senate.

Early voting will run Monday through Saturday until May 3. The primary is Tuesday, May 6.

Five early-voting sites will open across the county. Any Johnston County resident can vote at any early-voting site.

Voting changes

This is the first election since the state legislature changed North Carolina voting laws last summer. The changes prompted Johnston County to open a new, fifth early-voting site, said Leigh Ann Price, supervisor of elections.

The law made three major changes.

First, no more same-day registration. Residents who didn’t register by April 11 will not be able to cast ballots in the May primary.

Second, starting in 2016, voters will have to provide a photo ID when casting their ballots. For the May primary, election officials will ask voters to fill out a form stating whether they have a valid ID. This is to help the state gather statistics on how many people need IDs.

Third, the early-voting period is six days shorter, but counties have to have polls open the same number of hours as before. That’s what prompted Johnston County to open the fifth early-voting site.

Part of the legislature’s intent was to keep polls open longer before and after work. But Price said that didn’t make sense for Johnston County. She plans to have five staff members at each early-voting site, for a total of 25 workers. But a person can’t work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; if Price had opened the early-voting sites earlier and closed them later, she would have needed twice as many people. Instead, it was easier to open a fifth voting site.

Ending same-day registration will save the county about $5,000 this election because polling sites no longer need a person dedicated to helping people register. But the county has had to lease space for the fifth early-voting site and hire the extra people. Price estimated that early voting cost the county about $37,000 in the 2012 primary. She thinks it will cost about $46,500 this time around.