It’s 8 a.m. and the Bayboro polling station is all set up in the unadorned red-brick county courthouse. Polls have been open since 6:30 a.m., but the poll workers showed up about an hour earlier—before the sun—organizing their roles, going over the rules and establishing both the standard and the tempo for the day: accuracy and efficiency.
So far only 16 voters have come in, though half were able to vote here. The other half were diverted to their specific voting precinct. (Early voting for the county was stationed exclusively at the Bayboro courthouse, but on regular election days, like today, the county’s 10 polling locations open up, including one at the courthouse.)
Preparing for elections is a year-long project involving planning meetings and discussions on how to keep elections available and safe. They are open to the public at 10 a.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month, at the courthouse. All workers attend at least one training session before each election, as required by law. Lisa Bennett, the county director of elections, says she tries to get them to schedule a session a week or two before elections so the information is fresh.
The day before any election, the chief judge picks up voting booths, stickers, pens, desks, voting machines and other supplies and, with the help of county maintenance employee Maurice King and a rented truck, delivers them to each precinct. In major elections, poll workers get help from election board members to mark buffer zones and set up voting enclosures and curbside voting alert systems.
Vickie Moseley-Jones, the chief election judge for Bayboro, is a retired teacher and trustee at the Pamlico County Community College. She walks through the polling station, making sure everything is in order.
“I close the machines out, assign tasks, make sure everyone is following proper procedures. But most of all, I’m the peacemaker in times of conflict,” she tells me.
North Carolina switched from machine voting to new voting machines with paper ballots in December of 2019, “to make sure there is a paper trail,” explains Moseley-Jones. She says the paper ballots are a bit awkward but easier to validate.
Jean Martin, a Republican election judge for Bayboro, normally volunteers at the Florence/Whortonsville fire department as a first-responder. Today, she checks voters in. Mosely-Jones and Martin have worked together at the polls for 20 years, Martin tells me. This realization makes Martin and Moseley-Jones look at each other and laugh.
Sitting quietly in the rear of the room, leaning back in his chair, legs crossed, is Richard Johnson; he is the observer. Also present is James Banks, who is retired from the Navy. It is Banks’ first year as a poll worker.
“We are paid, but close to nothing,” says Martin. “Really, it is volunteer.” (Precinct officials are not hired by the board of elections—instead, party chairs submit their names.) “We had two-and-a-half weeks of early voting, which is really a good thing. But only about 1,000 voters came out to vote in that time,” says Martin. “Our job is really a labor of love,” she says, thinking ahead to 7:30 p.m., when the polls close. “My ankles will kill me by the end of the day—I can’t sit.” The workers nod in agreement.
A middle-aged man sends his ballot through the machine and waves goodbye. “See you in November,” says Moseley-Jones. (General elections are November 8.)
The following are Pamlico County Primary Election results (note—election results are not official until certified by the Board of Elections, on Friday, May 27, at 11 a.m.):
Jamie Gibbs and Erik Smith won the two at-large seats for the Board of Education. Helen Robinson won the seat for the Board of Education in District 4. (Gibbs, Smith, and Robinson have won these elections—these seats will not be on the General Election ballot in November.)
Sheriff Chris Davis beat Nate Nobel in the sheriff’s Republican primary, with 1,706 votes (90%), to Nobel’s 195 votes (10%). Davis will run against a Democratic candidate in the November general election.
North Carolina Senate District 1 seat, Republicans nominated Norman W. Sanderson over Bob Steinburg. Both were incumbents, but a newly redrawn district map had them competing against each other.
Statewide, the primary election winners are:
• Cheri Beasley (Dem.) U.S. Senate
• Ted Budd (Rep.) U.S. Senate
• Barbara Gaskins (Dem.) U.S. House of Representatives District 3
• Greg Murphy (Rep.) U.S. House of Representatives District 3
• Trey Allen (Rep.) N.C. Supreme Court Assoc. Justice Seat 5
• Donna Stroud (Rep.) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 9
• Michael Stading (Rep.) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 11
• Keith Kidwell (Rep.) N.C. House of Representatives District 79
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