McDuffie County voters made calls and visited the old courthouse Monday in a last-minute bid to make sure they are registered for the March 6 presidential preference primary.
County Elections Director Kelvin Williams and election board members kept the office open until 6 p.m. for those racing the deadline to register. Williams said he received many calls from people who wanted to confirm their registration. He also said the mailbag was heavy with returns of absentee ballots.
In-person absentee voting begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Voters began trickling into the voter registration area of the Main Street courthouse almost as soon as the special drop-in began at 4 p.m. Some renewed or transferred their registration. Thomson High School senior Denerica Brown registered for the first time. Brown, who turned 18 on Jan. 5, was accompanied by her mother, Debra Brown, of Thomson.
Denerica Brown said she chose to register “because it’s the right thing to do. And my vote counts.”.
Debra Brown said she encouraged Denerica to register. “She just turned 18 so I brought her in to register,” she said. “That’s important today.”
Williams instructed Denerica Brown as she tried the electronic voting machine. Working with the fictional office of dogcatcher, Williams told Brown how she could vote for Carter, reconsider and vote for Fido, and then change back to Carter. He showed her how she could review her choices before confirming her vote.
Williams took time with a succession of potential voters. Hosey L. Cummings of Thomson said he had been sick and just wanted to be sure he is eligible to vote. Williams checked the records and confirmed that Cummings’ registration is current.
Cummings, 69, said he has been voting since he reached voting age. He said he will have to mull many issues before he casts his ballot.
Ray and June Hunnicutt of Thomson said they read the notice of Williams’ election office drop-in in the newspaper. “We just moved from the panhandle of Warren County and we wanted to register,” Ray Hunnicutt said.
Election Board Chairwoman Bonnie Martin pointed out a row of charts and other displays that Williams had prepared outside his office. “I don’t think the people of our county know what he does,” Martin said. “He puts in a lot of hours.”
The displays included present and proposed city council, county commissioner and state representative districts, plus a list and photo gallery of elected officials and statistics on voter eligibility by district.
Just beyond those displays, in the main lobby of the old courthouse, election board member Margaret Lovejoy helped greet visitors and offered refreshments.
She, too, said Williams goes to great lengths to serve and to inform the voters. “He knows his stuff. He does a great deal,” she said.
Lovejoy said the new voter registration office is more inviting to the public. Williams and clerk LaQuisha Kendricks completed the move to that office last month. The office had been located on White Oak Road for several years.
Williams said the shiny and spacious office area also is more comfortable for the staff. He said the area that formerly housed the clerk of courts office was completely remodeled.
Williams said in addition to mailing absentee ballots, his office for the first time is sending electronic ballots through The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act program. He said two ballots were sent to McDuffie County residents serving overseas in the military.
He said though he has seen heavy returns of absentee ballots for the presidential primary, he expects much greater response in November. The presidential race will be decided Nov. 6. A number of state and local partisan races also will be decided that day.
In between, voters may return to the polls on July 31 for the general primary and nonpartisan elections, including school board.
Williams had prepared a pamphlet that contains every detail of the 2012 elections, including a list of polling places. Williams listed demographics on the county’s 12,090 active voters and 1,823 inactive voters. Of that total, 5,153 (37 percent) are black, 8,486 (60.9 percent) are white, 32 are Asian, 58 are Hispanic and 184 are listed as other. The total includes 6,153 (44.1 percent) male and 7,760 (55.8 percent) female.
The brochure also lists key election dates and qualifying fees for 12 offices.
Williams said he will distribute the pamphlets to churches. A limited number of the brochures are available at his office.