ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Elections is still mulling the idea of merging the two voting precincts in Elizabethtown and the two in Bladenboro.
The board recently held a community meeting in both towns to receive feedback from the voters regarding the proposal.
The proposal would affect 8,487 registered voters — the number of registered voters in Bladenboro 1 is 1,474; Bladenboro 2 is 2,501; Elizabethtown 1 is 2,777; and Elizabethtown 2 is 1,735, according to Board of Elections data.
Currently, the town of Bladenboro uses one voting location for the municipal elections only.
Board of Elections Chairman Bobby Ludlum said he anticipates the board making a decision at their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
He said the board had requested information from the state’s Board of Elections regarding the voting process on the precinct merger issue. Ludlum said, that according to information received from the state BOE, the vote by the board must be a majority vote. But the process doesn’t end there.
“We’ve got to vote on it and send a package to the state (regarding the merger),” said Ludlum.
Once the state board of elections receives the information from the local board, they will then make a final ruling on the matter.
Ludlum said on Friday the primary reason for merging the precincts lies with two of the facilities being used as polling locations. He said that the polling location for Elizabethtown 1 and Bladenboro 2 “are not very good facilities for the poll workers.”
It was pointed out in a public forum held in Elizabethtown that there are often air-conditioning and heating problems with the polling location at the gymnasium located on King Street in Elizabethtown.
“Spaulding Monroe has been condemned for a long time,” said Ludlum of the Bladenboro 2 polling location.
He added that about 50 percent of the voters in the most recent elections have been voting using the One Stop system or absentee by mail to cast their ballot. Ludlum this has lead to a decline in the number of voters showing up to polling locations on election day.
“Another reason for it is people have grown accustomed to being able to vote at any of the polling sites (during One Stop voting). Then on Election day, you have a lot of confusion because they think they can do the same thing,” said Ludlum.
He said this means poll workers have to take the time to collect the voter’s information, call the Board of Elections office in Elizabethtown and discern where the correct polling location is for that voter.
“A lot of people get angry and storm out. This would eliminate that in four of the largest precincts,” said Ludlum.
He added a long-term benefit will be that everyone that votes in Elizabethtown will vote at the Bladen County Public Library and everyone that votes in Bladenboro will be voting at the Bladenboro Historical Building.
“One Stop is already at the (Bladen County Public) library and Historical Building,” said Ludlum.
Ludlum said if the proposal is approved locally and by the state BOE, the voters of the affected precincts will receive a letter advising them of the change and where their new polling location will be.
Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.