My turn, George W. Benson: Ensure safe, free, fair elections
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020
By George W. Benson
Let me say right off the bat I am very honored to be representing the more than 140,000 citizens of Rowan County on the Board of Elections, many of whom feel they have never had a chance to be represented in any form of government.
During this extraordinary time of COVID-19 and with a need to implement the safest, fairest, most free election, the county board had the foresight to request a budget to the county commissioners for the funds for this election.
The commissioners denied this proposed budget opting to provide some $200,000 dollars less. The state and federal governments are providing COVID-19 relief funds to offset the difference.
The request to have Sunday voting has been going on for years but in today’s world it started in late February with fervor and continued through last week’s meeting. Citizens showed up to several meetings to comment and request Sunday voting. At least two meetings, the crowd was so large the meeting room was overflowing and citizens were standing in the office and hallway. Comments in favor of Sunday voting were made orally and by email by dozens and dozens of citizens. Opposing views were minimal at best. Reasons given for Sunday voting were providing safe and secure elections, shorter lines, better opportunities for citizens to vote and just the plain fact that voting needs to be available to all as much as possible.
A group of nonpartisan Rowan County voters approached me and asked me to present a plan which included Sunday voting to our county board. The plan called for 11 hours of weekend voting, which included four hours of Sunday voting.
During the March primary, 27 counties permitted Sunday voting. This bring us to the point of why several plans were discussed for this election. The state board has mandated voting locations be open 10 hours on the weekend. State law mandates certain voting days and hours must be in any plan.
Last week, the Rowan County Board of Elections had the opportunity to provide the citizens of Rowan the optimum plan for a safe and secure election — an election that every registered voter in Rowan can and should participate. A safe, fair, free election provides one the chance to have a say in how your government provides services for one’s family. The electoral process protects democracy.
Your board failed to agree on a unanimous plan, even when a compromise plan meeting state requirement was proposed. N.C. statutes mandate a unanimous plan be approved or the State Board of Elections will dictate the plan to be implemented.
The county board voted on three plans, and none passed unanimously.
People say this will be the most important election in our lifetime. Your county board and staff are striving to provide the fairest and safest election possible. The time is unprecedented, opportunities are limitless, history will be made.
Have your say in that history. Vote.
George W. Benson is a member of the Rowan County Board of Elections.