The ability to cast a ballot Saturday for the July 31 elections let Evelyn Newton check off one more thing on her to-do list this week.
She is preparing to travel next weekend to St. Petersburg, Fla., to be with her brother, who will undergo open heart surgery.
Newton said she never misses an election, and if she had not been able to vote Saturday, she would have voted early one day next week.
But Saturday she ran errands and decided to cast her ballot at the Board of Elections office on Greene Street.
“I’m out today. I could knock that out, and that’s one less thing I have to deal with this week,” she said.
Saturday voting was mandated by the state beginning this year.
When early voting was implemented in 2003, residents were given 45 days to vote early, said Lynn Bailey, the director of the Richmond County Board of Elections. But polls need to be staffed, and smaller counties were finding it a strain on their budgets. The state shortened the early voting period to 21 days and added a Saturday.
Richmond County early voting locations will have extended hours Monday through Friday this week – 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. – to give voters more time to cast ballots before the July 31 election. Absentee voting by mail will be available until Friday.
“There are lots of ways for people to cast a ballot,” Bailey said.
By noon Saturday, 40 people had cast votes at the Board of Elections office, 140 had voted at the Brigham Community Center and 120 had voted at the Warren Road Community Center, the three locations open for Saturday voting.
Sharlotte Gainous stopped by the Brigham center after a memorial service. The center was nearby and she works full time during the week, so voting there Saturday was very convenient.
“They did a great service for us busy moms,” she said.
Hattie Mae Hammond says it’s a blessing for her, too. She doesn’t leave her job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield until 6:30 or 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and when she has to vote on a workday, she has to fight crowds and rush to get it done.
Voting on Saturday at the Brigham center eliminated a lot of hassle for her.
“(I can) take my time and not worry about who’s behind me and whether I should hurry up,” she said.