Board of Elections considering additional Saturdays, Sundays for general election
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — A Rowan County Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday included discussion about an effort to include three additional Saturdays and two Sundays during early voting for the 2020 general election. Discussion also included additional funding to protect the county’s voters and poll workers from the risk of COVID-19.
Almost a dozen locals spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their support for adding extra early in-person voting days to the county’s election schedule, primarily emphasizing the safety of both voters and poll workers, as well as the accessibility for those who work full-time during the week or are low-income.
“Let’s remember it’s democracy we’re promoting here,” said Geoffrey Hoy, the Rowan County Democratic Party chairman. “Can anything be worth more than voting?”
Local resident Jackie Miller said not allowing Sunday voting creates “systemic barriers” for the poor, working class and people of color.
“Voting is important to being equitable,” she said.
Miller added that if people are opposed to the measure due to Sunday being a “holy day,” they should remember businesses are open on Sundays. And if cost is the barrier, she said, the board may consider swapping one Saturday with a Sunday.
On March 3, the Board of Elections requested from county commissioners more funding for Sunday voting following many public comments, debate and two tie votes. While the board requested $927,196 from the county for fiscal year 2020-21, it only received for $722,410. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the board was allocated a little more than $700,000.
Local pastor Anthony Smith encouraged the board to remember Jesus’ commandment to love thy neighbor and to use that as a guiding principle when making decisions, particularly when thinking of those who are at high risk of COVID-19-related complications.
Local resident Susan Lee expressed her support for including the additional three Saturdays and two Sundays of early voting, even after the 2020 general election in November.
Chris Sharpe, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP second vice president, spoke in support of adding the extra early voting days.
While no vote was taken, board chair John Hudson presented three proposed plans along with the “People’s Plan,” which was submitted by board member George W. Benson Jr. on behalf of “hundreds of local citizens.”
The first plan includes the state’s mandated days and hours, Oct. 15 to Oct. 31. Voting windows would be 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8. a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.
The second plan includes the state’s mandates along with one additional Saturday, on Oct. 24.
The third plan adds Oct. 24 Saturday voting along with Oct. 25 Sunday voting. If that plan is submitted, Sunday voting on Oct. 25 would be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The “People’s Plan,” however, would include all 17 possible voting days, which includes three Saturday voting days and two Sunday voting days.
Discussion among the board members arose after Benson asked why the board didn’t vote on a plan during the meeting. Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins said the purpose of only discussing the plans on Tuesday was to allow board members time to research and gather more information about funding costs for each plan.
Catrelia Hunter, the secretary on the board, said it’s important to be mindful of both the funding required and the citizens’ wishes, but that ultimately, the citizens are the taxpayers.
McCubbins said the board does not currently have sufficient funding for the additional voting days. But the board expects to receive $222,000 in additional funds from the state to ensure safer in-person elections and accommodate what’s expected to be significantly more absentee ballots by mail this year.
Gov. Roy Cooper on June 12 signed into law a bill that provides funding for local elections boards and modifies some current elections laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The intent is to help local elections boards ensure safer in-person voting and reform current absentee ballot policies. The law, House Bill 1169, will allow voters to submit absentee ballot requests via email, fax or a new online portal. Additionally, it provides temporary flexibility in recruiting precinct officials and poll workers.
McCubbins said the county will receive $170,000 from the state from HB 1169. Additionally, the county has allocated $52,000 to the Board of Elections from a recent grant of $2.56 million from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund. Those funds will allow for general election supplies, plexiglass shields at each table, floor spacing markers and hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes.
However, the board has not yet received guidance on how some of the additional funding from the state can be used since it is restricted for COVID-19 purposes.
The board will meet again on July 28 at 12:30 p.m. to formally vote on one of the proposed plans. A plan has to be submitted to the state by the end of the month, and the county ultimately has to pay for whichever plan the state mandates if the county doesn’t submit its own plan. Hudson said the plan requires a unanimous vote, but he doesn’t anticipate the vote will be unanimous.
In other business at the meeting:
- Cassandra Gill, who served as Rowan County Elections Deputy, submitted her resignation on June 22. Her last day in the office was June 26. The county intends to fill that position.
- Hudson made a formal announcement that filing for Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education seats will begin on July 17 at noon and end on Aug. 14 at noon. Seat 3 (East), Seat 5 (Salisbury) and Seat 7 (Southeast) are available for filing.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story identified “George W. Benson Jr.” as “George W. Benson III.” The Post regrets this error.
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