By Ivey Schofield
The 2022 election is well underway in North Carolina’s Border Belt region, where thousands of voters have already cast their ballots.
Several key races are on the ballot, including for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, N.C. Senate, N.C. House, N.C. Supreme Court. Voters are also picking local candidates for sheriff, county commissioners, school board members and more.
Mail-in voting began in September, and in-person early voting started Oct. 20 and ends Nov. 5.
Election Day is Nov. 8.
Here’s a look at voter turnout rates in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties through Tuesday.
In Bladen County, about 23% of registered voters had cast their ballots through Wednesday.
In the last non-presidential election, in 2018, the voter turnout rate in Bladen was 55.8%. About 58% of those who voted cast their ballots early, data shows.
This year, races for sheriff and clerk of court are especially hot, said Chris Williams, the county’s elections director.
Bladen County voters are also deciding on two referenda: one that would allow the sale of alcohol in unincorporated areas of the county, and one that would increase the sales tax to pay for school resource officers.
“People here in Bladen County, they like to vote,” Williams said. “They’ve been talking about this for a while.”
Related: Here’s who is on the ballot in Bladen County
So far, 20% of registered voters in Columbus County have cast their ballots.
While the races for district attorney and clerk of court are unopposed, the sheriff’s race is particularly contentious.
Jody Greene, the county’s first Republican sheriff, resigned last week during a hearing to determine whether he would be removed from office. He had been suspended since Oct. 4 after the release of a 2019 phone call recording in which he called deputies “Black bastards.”
Related: NC sheriff resigns
Greene’s name is still on the ballot.
In 2018, when Greene was also on the ballot, 50% of registered Columbus County voters participated in the election. About 46% of those who voted did so during early voting.
Related: Here’s who is on the ballot in Columbus County
In Robeson County, where the sheriff, clerk of court and district attorney are running unopposed, 12% of voters have cast their ballots.
In 2018, the voter turnout rate in Robeson was 41%. About 45% of those who participated did so during early voting.
Related: Here’s who is on the ballot in Robeson County
In Scotland County, 21.6% of registered voters have cast their ballots.
Despite contentious races for sheriff and county commission, that’s on par with the average progression of voting during non-presidential elections, said Dell Parker, the county’s elections director.
“It’s not surprising,” Parker said. “When I look at the numbers compared to 2018, we’re kind of right where we were.”
In 2018, the voter turnout rate in Scotland was 47%. About 60% of those who voted in that election cast their ballots during early voting.