ELIZABETTHOWN — The Bladen County Board of Elections voted 2-1 Tuesday morning to proceed with combining Elizabethtown 1 and Elizabethtown 2, as well as Bladenboro 1 and Bladenboro 2 precincts. Board of Elections member Al T. Daniels was the dissenting vote.
Board of Elections member Brian Hehl said he and Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw spoke with Neil Baddour of the State Board of Elections in Raleigh proir to the meeting.
“According to the State Board of Elections, if we did consolidate, what we have to do is take Elizabethtown 1 and absorb Elizabethtown 2 into one precinct,” said Hehl.
The same procedure would also apply to Bladenboro 1 and Bladenboro 2.
He added the State Board of Elections requires a majority vote for a resolution, not unanimous. He told the board that once it is approved, a package is sent to the State Board of Elections office in Raleigh for final approval.
“Am I the only one who didn’t get copies of the email?” said Daniels.
“I was the only one that got it because I called and talked to him,” said Hehl.
A copy of Baddour’s email was shared with Daniels.
Daniels proceeded to state his case that, with the compressed schedules for the election cycle due to the North Carolina Presidential Primary being moved to March, he felt it was very bad timing to combine the precincts. Daniels also stated that after receiving the public comments during the public hearings, he felt that the public was opposed to the idea.
“At the Bladenboro forum, I noticed there were very, very few minorities in the audience,” said Daniels.
After further discussion, Daniels said he was “absolutely against doing any consolidation of precincts at this time.”
Ludlum told the board that it is his opinion if the board puts in its request to combine precincts now, the State Board of Elections in Raleigh will most likely not act on it before the primary.
Ludlum explained to the board that on election day, the members of the Board of Elections and the staff will arrive at the BOE office and go over the absentee ballots. He told the board that usually requires the members of the Board of Elections along with at least one staff person. Ludlum said at the same time, the Board of Elections office is getting phone calls from the precincts regarding someone who has walked in and is in the wrong polling location.
“When that person walks in and he is in the wrong precinct, the poll worker gets his information, and they call in here to find out where he is supposed to vote,” said Ludlum.
He added that the process is very frustrating for the poll workers and the voter. Ludlum said that by combining precincts, that would eliminate some of the confusion.
Daniels said that while he respectfully accepted the explanations he has heard, he still was not swayed by the argument.
After further discussion, Hehl made a motion for Elizabethtown 1 to absorb Elizabethtown 2 and the new polling location become the Bladen County Public Library. He also made a motion for Bladenboro 1 to absorb Bladenboro 2 and the new polling location to become the Bladenboro Historical Building.
The motion was OK’d 2-1.
The information will now be sent to the State Board of Elections in Raleigh for their final approval.
In other business:
— The board set Friday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m. as the day the Board of Elections will meet and approve any provisional ballots from the election.
— The board approved the mail absentee ballots for the municipal election.
Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.