Elections board approves budget with Sunday early voting
By Liz Moomey
SALISBURY— In a 3-2 vote on Thursday, the Rowan County Board of Election approved an increase in their budget to allow for additional one-stop early voting times, including Sundays, for the general election.
The Board of Elections’ approved budget includes funding for three Saturdays and two Sundays. Chair John Hudson, Catrelia Hunter and George Benson, Democratic Party appointees, voted for the approved budget. Dave Collins and Mary Blanton, Republican appointees voted for a budget that excluded the extra voting times. Now, the approved budget is in the hands of Rowan County administrative staff and commissioners for final approval.
The difference of the two budgets, with and without overtime pay for extra voting time, is $16,571.
Collins argued the board did not know what the state mandate would be for early voting.
“My notion doesn’t have anything to do with any particular day,” Collins said. “It’s simply the fact that we are here trying to make a decision on a voting plan that we don’t have anything to go on.”
He said it was premature to put money in the budget since the county board does not know what would be mandated.
Blanton agreed with Collins, saying the board is currently “blowing in the wind” not knowing what the state will require for early voting.
Hunter said, beyond the state’s plans, the board agreed they wanted to approve a budget that included potential funding for Sunday voting.
At the March 3 meeting, the board proposed to request funding from the commissioners that would include early voting on two Sundays, with four hours of voting each. That decision was made by a 3-2 vote, Democrat appointees voting “aye.”
The meeting room at the Board of Elections office was filled for the March 3 meeting and two prior meetings with voters advocating to add Sunday voting during the public comment period. Thursday’s meeting had no one there for public comment, but elections director Brenda McCubbins passed out emails received from citizens — both for and against. She added Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds had received emails as well.
Benson and Hunter said they would like to receive copies of those emails.
“It seems as if it would be irresponsible of us as the Board of Elections not to make that request when a significant number of our voters and tax payers have asked us to do that,” Hunter said.
Collins said he thought otherwise.
“I disagree that it would be irresponsible of us,” Collins said. “I think it’s irresponsible of us to put money in a budget for a purpose that has not been identified.”
The state mandates days and hours for one-stop early voting, which would be released in the summer, according to elections director Brenda McCubbins. The county’s one-stop plan is due to the State Board of Elections on July 31.
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