Fessenden Center Annex in Buxton. Photo by Joy Crist.

The Precinct Officials – also known as Judges – who manage the early voting location at the Fessenden Center Annex building in Buxton know how important and convenient it is to have an early voting site that is close to home on Hatteras Island.

Cathy Diemer, who has been a Judge for six years, even recalls keeping the early voting station open during a fall hurricane evacuation.

“We were working as the evacuation was going on, and we stayed open as long as possible,” she said. “We had 26 people come by that day on their way off the island, because they didn’t know if they would be able to come back and vote at their local precinct on Election Day.

“We like to say that we ‘voted them off the island.’”

The way that early voting works in Dare County, and specifically Hatteras Island, is simple. During every election season, including primary and general elections, the Fessenden Center Annex is open for voters from any corner of Dare County to pop in and cast their ballot at their convenience.

Same-day registration is also available at one-stop early voting sites for folks who want to vote but who haven’t registered yet, and voters can also update pertinent information like their name and address on their voting card, (but not their party affiliation.)

In Dare County, early voting takes place at three sites, which are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday, March 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for the March 5 primary election.

The Kill Devil Hills Town Hall and Dare County Administrative Building in Manteo are the other two early voting locations in the county, but it’s the Fessenden Center Annex that’s the closest option for most Hatteras Islanders.

“It really worked out for early voting to be held at this building,” said Head Judge Sarah Barley, who has been a Judge since roughly 2016. “We are fully wheelchair accessible, and people can also vote from their cars.”

“I feel like early voting is one of the best-kept secrets during elections,” said Jay Lassiter, one of the current Judges in Buxton.

But keeping the Buxton early voting location open can be a challenge.

During the early voting timeframe, 4-5 people work one of two shifts daily to keep the election process running smoothly, and finding Judges to fill these slots can be difficult.

“When it comes to recruiting Judges, we managed to pull it together [for the March primary election] at the end, but we had a few panic days when there weren’t enough people on the schedule,” said Barley.

In addition, the folks who work the polls in Buxton are surprised that early voting – at least for this latest election cycle for the March primary – hasn’t been popularly utilized by residents.

“I’m a little surprised. We had just 57 people during the first four or five days that early voting was open,” said Lassiter. “And you can just walk right in and vote – there are no lines, and no wait.”

The Fessenden Center Annex in Buxton currently has nine voting stations, and there has never been an instance where every station is occupied during an early voting period.

There’s also a voting station designed for people who are hearing or seeing impaired, to ensure that everyone on the island has access to their right to vote, regardless of challenges.

Simply put, the Fessenden Center Annex is fully staffed and ready for voters to come by and cast their ballot – they just need to come.

Looking ahead, more Judges may be needed to work during the November general election, as well as future elections in the years ahead. Judges are paid for their time, ($12 per hour), and work in six-hour shifts during the 2-3 week early voting period.

But the modest pay is not what attracts Judges to serve in Buxton. For one thing, for new residents like Judges Harvey Lexington and Lassiter, it’s a good way to get involved in the Hatteras Island community.

“For a lot of people who haven’t been on the island that long, it’s a good way to meet people, and to make connections,” said Lexington.

And on a more significant level, for everyone who signs up, it’s an opportunity to perform a civic duty and serve the community and the country.

“I would say that there is an element of volunteerism,” said Lassiter. “There’s a stipend, yes… but it’s more about the honor to be able to do your civic duty.”

“It’s definitely an honor to do it,” added Diemer. “How else are we going to keep the election system [going]? And we need people participating. Come join us.”

How to vote early in the March 5 Primary

In Dare County, early voting will take place at three locales, which will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday, March 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

  • Fessenden Center Annex, 47017 Buxton Back Road, Buxton
  • Dare County Administrative Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo
  • Kill Devil Hills Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive

Dare County voters can stop by any of the three early voting sites to cast a vote.

How to sign up to be a Precinct Official/Judge

Folks who are interested in becoming a Judge can stop by the Fessenden Center Annex in Buxton during early voting hours. In addition, more information on becoming a Judge can be found online at https://www.darenc.gov/departments/elections/precinct-workers-mat-team.

How to find more information on the Republican and Democratic candidates on the March 5 Primary ballot

Visit the League of Women Voters of Dare County website for a wealth of information and links on the folks who are on the March Primary ballot. Vote411.org is also a solid resource to learn more about voting specifics, as well the details about North Carolina candidates running for office.

The post Island community is encouraged to take advantage of Early Voting in Buxton – and join in the process for future elections appeared first on Island Free Press.

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Credit: Original content published here.

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