DOBSON — As of Saturday, more than 20,000 Surry County residents — nearly half of all registered voters in the county — had cast their votes.
In North Carolina voters don’t need an excuse to vote by mail or early in-person at an early voting location, and it has changed operations for election officials and candidates for public office.
Susan Jarrell, elections director in Surry County, noted the 2016 general election will cost the county $24,000 more in personnel costs than the 2012 election cost. There will also be a $3,000 to $4,000 increase in expenditures related to supplies.
Jarrell said it’s all hands on deck at the board of elections throughout the voting period. There are four full-time employees in her office, and the county will hire 188 precinct officials on election day. Forty or more election officials staff early voting sites beginning on Oct. 20, and many other part-time personnel are hired to handle logistical aspects such as testing voting machines.
“It takes a lot of people to run an election,” said Jarrell.
Even with the costs and increased numbers in personnel, Jarrell said she likes the early voting system. It is much easier to handle any issues which arise, such as a change of address or a name change, at an early voting location than at the polls on election day.
Increasing numbers of those wishing to take advantage of early voting also has its effects on the campaigns of those seeking to hold office.
“It’s the difference between a marathon and a sprint,” said Surry County Democratic Party chair John Worth Wiles.
Wiles said his involvement in politics didn’t begin until after the early voting era began, but he is able to see the differences in how one might run a campaign.
“You have to have all your ducks in a row before early voting begins,” explained Wiles.
Wiles said on his side of the aisle a get-out-the-vote campaign is important, and everything must be in place to effectively push voters who lean Democrat to the polls.
“Any effective campaign has a database of voters who are likely to be supporters,” said Wiles.
After every day of early voting, a candidate or his campaign staff must compare who voted against the list of likely supporters. Then calls go out to all those who didn’t show up at the polls and who are likely to be supporters.
“There’s still a last big push on election day, but usually by election day you have a good idea whether you’ve won or lost.”
Surry County Republican Party Chairman Dan Kiger could not be reached for comment.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.