DOBSON — Friday is the registration deadline for those wanting to vote in North Carolina’s presidential preference primary on March 15 and for changing party affiliations, which Surry residents have been doing at increased levels recently.
Local enthusiasm for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is viewed as a factor behind some Surry Democrats choosing recently to switch parties in order to support Trump when Surry and other voters statewide make their choices next month. Trump is presently the GOP front-runner.
“We have had some voters comment that they are registering or changing parties to vote for Trump, and some have mentioned other candidates,” Susan Jarrell, director of the Surry County Board of Elections, added of activity there.
It has been brisk of late.
“The activity we have seen in the last two to three weeks, with people coming into the office to register, is what we typically see the last week of registration,” Jarrell mentioned several days ago with a more than a week still to go until Friday’s regular deadline.
That applies to those wishing to vote on Election Day itself on March 15, but those who don’t meet the deadline can still register and cast ballots during a one-stop early voting period beginning on March 3.
However, local election officials are urging citizens who are not registered to do so by this Friday, to save time and streamline early voting.
The presentation of an acceptable photo ID will be required for most voters to cast ballots this year for the first time due to a new election reform law in North Carolina, and registering early will eliminate some of the processing time during the one-stop period.
In turn, taking advantage of early voting will lessen possible long lines on the actual primary day.
“We’re anticipating a heavier-than-usual turnout,” Jarrell said.
Registration forms must be submitted to the Surry County Board of Elections office in Dobson by 5 p.m. Friday or postmarked by then. (A form may be sent by fax or email attachment, but the original must be received in the office no later than 5 p.m. on Feb. 23.)
Persons unsure of their registration status may consult the office at 401-8225.
Elections officials processed 371 new registrations from Jan. 1 to Feb. 10.
During the last presidential election year in 2012, 315 new registrants were logged for the comparable period leading up to the primary.
While those who miss Friday’s registration deadline can still cast ballots during the early voting period, but not on March 15, Friday is the final, absolute deadline for changing party affiliations, Jarrell said.
“We’ve had a couple of calls this morning about that,” the local elections official said Tuesday.
Switching parties has been on the minds of a notable number of local voters recently.
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 10:
• Thirty-eight Democrats in Surry County changed their party affiliation to Republican, with another 34 switching to the unaffiliated status. (Unaffiliated voters may choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary, while those registered as Democrats or Republicans are restricted to their parties’ candidates).
• Only three Republicans shifted to the Democratic Party, with 13 GOP members migrating to the unaffiliated ranks.
• Eight people who previously were unaffiliated became members of the Democratic Party, with another 29 going to the Republican side. Since those with no party affiliation can choose to cast ballots for candidates of either party in the primary, one might surmise that the switches among their ranks reflect changes in political philosophies.
Jarrell said unaffiliated voters will be asked which party primary they want to cast ballots in when showing up to vote.
The primary ballot not only will include presidential candidates, but those vying for other offices, including a Republican primary for a Mount Airy District seat on the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
However, changes in party affiliations were less prevalent for the comparable period in 2012, with just 42 Democrats, 10 Republicans and seven unaffiliated voters switching their status.
Jarrell said local voters who choose to cast absentee ballots should be aware of a mistake in the 2016 Primary Election Voter Guide mailed recently to every household in the state by the N.C. Board of Elections.
The guide includes an absentee ballot request form, but an incorrect address for the Surry Board of Elections where forms are to be mailed.
“They have it listed as 115 South Maple Street, Graham, North Carolina, 27253, which is the address for the Alamance County Board of Elections,” Jarrell explained.
“They are forwarding all received to our office,” she added of elections personnel in Alamance, but Jarrell wants to assure local residents that the Surry office is still in Dobson.
“We do not know how the error occurred.”
The absentee by mail process (with no excuse required) began on Jan. 25. All absentee ballot requests must be submitted on the official state form, with handwritten informal requests no longer accepted.
In addition to that recently mailed by state elections officials, the form is available on the Surry Board of Elections website or by calling its office.
Completed official request forms may be mailed, faxed, emailed (signed and scanned) or hand-delivered to the office.
March 8 is the last day for citizens to request that an absentee ballot be mailed to them.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.