LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Elections on Tuesday approved the merging of some precincts that will lead to some voters in three municipalities going to different polling sites for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
Tina Bledsoe, the board’s interim director, told the three-member board that the merging of precincts in Red Springs, Fairmont and St. Pauls is almost complete, and that the next step is to notify affected voters of the changes through mail.
The precincts merged and the new precincts formed are as follows:
— Red Springs: Red Springs 1 and Red Springs 2 are now designated as precinct “26A - Red Springs.” The polling site will be at the Red Springs Community Building at 122 Cross St.
— Fairmont: Fairmont 1 and Fairmont 2 are now designated as “05A-Fairmont.” Voters will cast their ballots at the Fairmont Senior Citizens Center (Fire Hall) at 421 S. Main St.
— St. Pauls: North St. Pauls and South St. Pauls are now designated as “32A-St. Pauls.” The polling site will be at the St. Pauls Town Hall at 210 W. Blue St.
Also on Tuesday, the board appointed several judges and chief judges for the November elections, but came up 12 people short to fill all of the judgeships in the county’s 21 municipal precincts.
“We will immediately start looking to fill the vacant positions with people we feel are qualified and have the desire to do the job,” said Steve Stone, the board’s chairman.
Robeson County has 41 precincts, but only 24 are contained within municipal boundaries. It will be voters within the municipal precincts that will be voting in November when mayors and council representatives are on the ballot.
Stone said that by state law the chairmen of the county’s Republican and Democratic parties had until Friday to nominate two judges and one chief judge for each of the county’s 41 precincts. Between Democratic leader John McNeill and Republican leader Phillip Stephens only 11 new nominations were offered to the board for consideration. McNeill submitted a list of both previous municipal and rural precinct judges for reappointment, bringing to 71 the total number of judges approved by the board on Tuesday.
Stone said that state law mandates that all of the judge nominees made by the leaders of a county’s political parties must be appointed to the positions by the local board of elections. The state also delegates county boards the responsibility of filling vacant judgeships, he said.
According to Stone, in addition to the 12 vacant municipal precinct judgeships, the county as of Tuesday is short about 38 judges in the rural precincts that will be needed for the 2014 elections. The elections board staff will use the next several months to scour individual precincts in search of the additional 50 judges that will be needed to oversee precinct polling sites in the 2014 elections, he said.