Bladen County voters will have several contested races to decide on Tuesday, along with a handful of referendums, when they go to the polls for the state’s first-ever primary in March.
North Carolina’s General Assembly voted in 2015 to change the usual May election date to March for the presidential primary.
Although the presidential primary will lead the charge to the polls, voters in the state and county also have a state-wide $2 billion Connect NC bond to decide, which, if passed, would be used to renovate and build buildings within the state’s university and college system, as well as improve state park facilities, build and upgrade city/county water and sewer systems, and improve the state’s National Guard facilities.
Locally, both Jones Lake State Park and Singletary Lake State Park would benefit, as would Bladen Community College.
Bladen County will have three referendums on the ballot Tuesday, but only one will be available to all voters.
For the fourth time in recent years, a quarter-cent sales tax referendum is on the ballot that, if passed, would benefit property owners in the county with a 2-cent reduction in the tax rate.
The referendum — which was slated to benefit Bladen County Schools the previous two times on the ballot — was soundly defeated by voters.
In White Lake, voters will be asked to decide whether to allow the on-premises and off-premises sale of unfortified wine and also malt beverages.
A similar county-wide referendum was recently defeated.
North Carolina voters will, for the first time in history, be required to show an ID before casting a ballot. The change in legislature, which will take effect in March’s primary election, came about in an effort to reduce voter fraud that has been rampant in other states.
In an effort to get the word out to citizens, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has inundated the airwaves with public service announcements, utilized newspaper outlets across the state, and set up an informational web site.
“I think everyone’s gotten the message that this is going to happen,” said Cynthia Shaw, Bladen County Board of Elections director. “It’s like technology … it’s just something new.”
Acceptable forms of identification include:
— N.C. driver’s license, learner’s permit, or provisional license
— N.C. Identification Card for non-drivers
— U.S. passport
— U.S. military identification
— Veteran’s Affairs card
— Certain tribal identification cards, such as those from a federally or state recognized tribe
— An out-of-state license, as long as voter registration occurred within 90 days of the election
Unacceptable forms of photo identification include student ID’s and government-employee ID’s.
Any registered voter who does not have a valid ID may apply for a free ID from the Division of Motor Vehicles, located on Gillespie Street in Elizabethtown.
Early voting for March’s primary began March 3 — through Tuesday, the library in Elizabethtown saw 825 people vote early, 184 residents voted in East Arcadia, 182 took advantage of the opportunity in Dublin, and Bladenboro had 221 people turn out. More than 700 absentee ballots were sent out, and 450 of them have been returned, signed and approved.
“We now have more people that vote early or use absentee ballots than we have traffic on election day,” said Shaw. “Between early voting, absentee ballots, and election day, there’s really no reason why anyone can’t vote.”
Bladen County voters still have time to take advantage of early voting. The following are the dates and times for early voting:
— Wednesday, March 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
— Thursday, March 10, and Friday, March 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
— Saturday, March 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The following are the one-stop locations:
— Elizabethtown: Bladen County Public Library at 111 N. Cypress St.
— Bladenboro: Bladenboro Historical Society at 818 Main St.
— Dublin: Lion’s Club at 120 Second St.
— East Arcadia: East Arcadia Town Hall at 1516 East Arcadia Road in Riegelwood.
Voters who have not yet registered can take advantage of on-site registration at the one-stop sites. Identification and proof of address are required.
The county Board of Commissioners has three at-large, four-year seats up for grabs and Democrats have four candidates running for the chance to challenge three Republicans. Those Democrats are incumbent Jimmie Smith, incumbent Michael Cogdell, Avery Rising and Pamela Benton.
The District 1 seat for the county’s Board of Commissioners, a four-year term, has two Democrats vying to get on the November ballot in Ophelia Munn-Goins and Anthony McKoy.
The District 3 seat, a four-year term, will see incumbent Wayne Edge taking on challenger Ken Register Jr.
The county Board of Education’s District 1 seat, a four-year term, has Glenn McKoy running against Sabrina Murchison on the ballot; the District 2 seat, also a four-year term, shows incumbent Wilbur Smith Jr. running against former school-board member Berry Lewis.
Election Day polling stations
— Abbotts—Community Building, 13670 Twisted Hickory Road, Bladenboro
— Bethel—Lions Club Building, 120 2nd Street, Dublin
— Bladenboro—Historical Building, 818 Main Street; Old Spaulding-Monroe School, 508 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
— Brown Marsh—Town Hall, 81 N. Elm Street, Clarkton
— Carvers Creek—East Arcadia School, 21451 N.C. Hwy 87 E, Riegelwood
— Central— Shriners Building, 2016 N.C. 242 Hwy N, Elizabethtown
— Colly—White Lake Fire Department, 1879 White Lake Drive
— Cypress Creek—Hickory Grove Fire Department, 132 N.C. 210 Hwy W, Garland
— Elizabethtown—Recreation Department Gym, 803 W King Street; Powell-Melvin Ag Service Center, 450 Smith Circle
— Frenches Creek—Kelly Fire Department, 18628 N.C 53 Hwy E
— Hollow—Municipal Building, 14867 N.C 87 Hwy W
— Lake Creek—Riverside Missionary Baptist Church, 5041 N.C 210 Hwy E
— Turnbull—Ammon Community Building, 120 Ammon Community Center Road
— Whites Creek—Lisbon Fire Department, 2585 White Plains Church Road
— White Oak—Ruritan Building, 9579 N.C 53 Hwy W
W. Curt Vincent and Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.