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Rowan County Board of Elections considers ways to meet state mandate on early voting schedule

SALISBURY — Recent legislation approved by the N.C. General Assembly will require counties to staff polling stations for extended hours during the early-voting period. The Rowan County Board of Elections is set to consider how it will address that mandate.

The changes are part of Senate Bill 325, which was approved last month despite a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.

In 2017, early voting ran from Oct. 19 to Nov. 3. This year, it will run from Oct. 17 to Nov. 3.

The bill requires each one-stop voting site to remain open during the entire three-week voting period, with mandatory weekday operating hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The extended voting hours pose problems for some counties, which could struggle to staff each one-stop site with a required full-time employee.

For Rowan County Elections Director Nancy Evans, the most pressing concern is the hours required to staff each voting site.

“Poll workers would have to get to each site 30 minutes before voting started and leave 30 minutes after,” Evans said. “That’s a 13-hour day, which is kind of hard on anybody.”

To address the long shift, Evans said she will propose a split shift for poll workers.

She also will propose opening only the early-voting sites used during the primary rather than adding more.

The early-voting sites include the Board of Elections Office in West End Plaza, the Rockwell American Legion Building and the Rowan Public Library South Branch in China Grove.

During the 2017 general election, early voting was available only at the Board of Elections Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

While the recently passed legislation allows county board offices to remain open during business hours only, Evans said she will suggest that the office remain open according to additional site requirements.

“We’re going to have to be here anyway in case one of the other sites needs something,” she said. “That way, we’ll be able to use our office staff and have those individuals take split shifts to fill those hours.”

The board will meet at noon July 17 to decide what measures to take to meet the new requirements. Evans said she is required to report back to the state by July 20.

The board also will elect a new chairman and vice chairman. Current Chairman John Hudson, a Democrat, will be replaced by a Republican.

Vice Chairman Dave Collins, a Republican, will be replaced by a Democrat.

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