Some Border Belt voters went to the wrong precinct on Election Day

By Kerria Weaver

After being redirected for a second time, Trayonna Haddock got in her car and drove away from the Bill Sapp Recreation Center in Lumberton to travel to yet another voting precinct.

“This happens to me every year,” Haddock, 53, said before going to her third location on Election Day, March 5.

Haddock wasn’t the only voter who got sent to another precinct during this year’s primary election. Several local voters told the Border Belt Independent they were confused after learning they were at the wrong place. 

Election officials in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties said they heard some complaints from voters about precincts, but not enough to raise alarm bells. 

Jeffery Register, chairman of the Columbus County Board of Elections, said some people erroneously showed up to the elections office in Whiteville. “I was here part of the day and some people would come in saying they voted here last time,” he said. “A lot of people assume they can just come out to the board of elections, but everybody has to go to their precincts to vote.”

During in-person early voting, voters can cast ballots at any early voting site in their county. But on Election Day, they must cast ballots at the precinct assigned to them based on their address. 

When voters do not go to their proper precincts, they are offered provisional ballots. 

Lafayette Atkinson, chairman of the Bladen County Board of Elections, said some voters might have been confused about their precincts because of redistricting.

“The district lines changed in 2021,” Atkinson said. ”It took part of district three and put it in district one.” 

Atkinson said the elections office mailed letters to voters about three precinct changes that were the result of renovations at previously used buildings. 

Tina Blesdoe, the elections director in Robeson County, said she wasn’t aware of any specific voting site concerns. “Sometimes the voter may end up getting told to go here and then when they get there, then it’s not there, it could be somewhere else,” she said. 

Register said Columbus County is considering ways to more effectively let voters know their precinct location. 

“Due to budget constraints, we can’t send out mass mailings the week before every election telling people where to go,” Register said. “What we can do, right now, is make sure information we have on file is correct and voters are aware of resources to confirm where they are supposed to vote.”

Voters can find their precinct online through the N.C. State Board of Elections. 

Voter turnout

Thousands of people cast ballots in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Columbus counties for the March 5 primary. Here’s a closer look at the data compiled by the state Board of Elections office.

Bladen county

  • 5,645 ballots were cast
  • Voter turnout was 24.98%
  • 20 provisional ballots were cast, 16 on Election Day and four during early voting

Columbus County

  • 7,212 ballots were cast
  • Voter turnout was 19.75%
  • 54 provisional ballots were cast, 48 on Election Day and six during early voting

Robeson County

  • 14,044 ballots were cast
  • Voter turnout was 19.21%
  • 164 provisional ballots were cast, 122 on Election Day and 42 during early voting

Scotland County

  • 4,364 ballots were cast
  • Voter turnout was 20.13%
  • 13 provisional ballots were cast, nine on Election Day and four during early voting

Staff writers Rachel Baldauf and Ben Rappaport contributed.