Early voting is indeed a privilege

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

Laura Lewis 

“We just went and voted!” Beacon cohorts Kathryn Jacewicz and Sarah Shew Wilson crowed last week upon returning to the newsroom from one-stop voting at the National Guard Armory on Main Street in Shallotte.

There were no lines, no hassles, no broken-down machines, they gloated.

Hey, early voting in Brunswick County does sound pretty great, I thought.

I began to wonder, hope, then pray, I could do that in my own voting district just across the state line in Horry County, S.C.

It sure would help offset a lot of problems I encountered last Election Day, what with being moved to a new voting site without notification and then being held up by rebellious, outmoded machines refusing to budge or work until they got technical support.

That year, after venturing two miles up the highway to the African Methodist Episcopal church where I usually voted, I was sent back down the road to the American Legion Post in my own neighborhood and a stalled line of harried voters wearing mirrored, non-gleeful expressions.

Come back later, the equally unsmiling poll workers advised. It’s probably not necessary to add I didn’t win the lottery that day.

This year, however, might be different with one-stop voting, which sounded as simple and uncomplicated as breezing through McDonald’s drive-thru for an iced hazelnut coffee (yum!).

It’s sweet in concept, but the reality in my neck of the woods turned out to be opposite from Brunswick County’s idyllic one-stop setting.

The rules in Horry County are I couldn’t vote early unless: I’m a student, a student’s spouse or dependent residing with a student; in the Armed Forces, Merchant Marines, Red Cross (does being a blood donor count?) or a government employee/spouse/dependent residing with any of the aforementioned or physically disabled.

Other people who could vote early in S.C. were people on vacation (newspaper people aren’t allowed to do that on Election Day), those age 65 or older (not there yet!), or people “admitted to the hospital as emergency patients on day of election or at least four days prior to the election” or who have had a death or funeral in the family within three days prior to the election.

Yeah, uh, sorry I didn’t plan better for one of those.

Others among the privileged few who could vote early in the Palmetto State are people in jail or a pre-trial facility, another situation for which I had failed to plan.

Instead, I made plans to stand in the usual line at the usual door, maybe around poll-opening time at 7 a.m. Tuesday, which poll experts said would be a bad time to vote.

Next election season, I’m favoring a referendum to make early voting a right for all registered, American early birds—even those who aren’t jailbirds.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or e-mail llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.