The Surry County Human Services Center in Mount Airy appeared to be a quiet place Friday — except for a large room inside the building where a beehive of activity was under way in preparation for early voting starting Monday.
Surry Elections Director Susan Jarrell and members of her staff, along with county information technology (IT) personnel, were busy setting up computerized touch-screen machines so they would be ready for their first users Monday at 8:30 a.m.
“It will take us all day,” Jarrell said Friday during a brief break from those preparations.
On Monday, waves of voters are expected as Mount Airy does its part for what is expected to be a record turnout in Surry for those taking advantage of one-stop absentee early voting.
“I think it will be higher than it ever has been,” Jarrell said of increasing use of the early voting program that 38 percent of county residents took advantage of in the 2008 presidential election.
That service, which has been offered since Oct. 18 at the county Board of Elections in Dobson, expands to both Mount Airy and Elkin Monday for a six-day run ending Saturday — three days before the Nov. 6 general election.
Jarrell and her staff say turnout there could be heavy, judging by what’s occurred so far in Dobson. Figures show that through Friday, the on-site turnout there has totaled 3,903.
“It’s much more than we ever expected it to be,” the elections official said.
While the overall percentage of voters casting early ballots might not exceed 50 percent in Surry, which officials in some counties are predicting, Jarrell said she won’t be surprised if this does occur locally.
Along with avoiding possible long waits at polling places on Election Day, early voting has become a popular option because it allows someone who isn’t registered to do so and cast a ballot at the same time — hence the one-stop description. However, they must have proper identification, Jarrell reminded.
Those not already registered are prohibited from casting ballots on Nov. 6.
City Site Doubles
The Surry County Human Services Center is located at 1218 State St. in Mount Airy behind Arby’s.
Signs will be liberally placed both outside and inside the building to direct voters.
Ballots can be cast there from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Steps have been taken to make the voting experience as smooth as possible.
“We’ve doubled the size of the site since the last election,” Jarrell said of the Mount Airy location, “so we hope to get people in and out quicker.” That includes increasing the number of voting machines to about 20, from 10 for the last election.
In Dobson, where some lines have been reported, no one generally has had to wait longer than 15 minutes to vote, Jarrell said. Some delay might be due to the long ballot involved, she said, which includes an array of state, local and national candidates including the presidential race.
Ballots can continue to be cast in Dobson at the Board of Elections office, located on the lower level of the new courthouse at 201 E. Kapp St. The remaining voting schedule there is 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday though Friday, and 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
In Elkin, where one-stop early voting will be conducted at the Elkin Rescue Squad building at 940 N. Bridge St., the hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.