Rowan County will have Sunday voting for general election

Published 7:00 pm Monday, August 31, 2020

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The State Board of Elections on Monday voted to allow three Saturdays and two Sundays in Rowan County’s early voting period, which is set to begin on Oct. 15.

The vote comes after Rowan County Board of Elections met July 28 and failed to unanimously agree on an early voting plan, leaving the state board to decide what days and hours would be implemented. Following Monday’s vote, early voting in Rowan County will begin Oct. 15 and last until Oct. 31. Voting times are from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 17, Oct. 24 and Oct. 31; and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18 and Oct. 25.

Local board of elections members on Monday represented the three different voting plans.

Local board member George W. Benson represented the majority-supported plans, which both included Sunday voting. Plan B would have allowed for early voting on all three Saturdays between Oct. 15 and Oct. 31 and two Sundays in addition to weekdays. Plan C, also termed “the People’s Plan,” is similar to plan B, except that it would allow for more early voting hours on Sundays.

Benson said more than 100 people have commented in support of “the People’s Plan” since Sunday voting became an issue in February ahead of the primary election in March.

“If you can shop at Wal-Mart, if you can have a cocktail on Sunday, if you can buy a gun on Sunday, then you can vote on Sunday,” Benson said.

Rowan County Board member Dave Collins represented the minority-supported plan, or plan A, which allows for early voting from Oct. 15 to Oct. 31, including all Saturdays.

Collins said plan A satisfied all of the state’s early voting mandates and provided ample voting opportunities, adding that it’s “extremely unlikely” anyone who wants to vote early won’t make the time to do so. Additionally, it would allow rest for poll workers, who are usually older in age and, as a result, at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Collins said Sunday voting has been promoted in a way that benefits one party over the other and benefits one particular ethnic group. He said church leaders have advocated to “whip up” the congregation and bring a bus of them to vote on Sunday.

State Board of Elections member Jeff Carmon asked Collins how Sunday voting would suppress any other ethnic groups from voting if the polls are open for all. He asked Collins how eliminating Sunday voting would stop any groups from gathering to vote on another day, or how eliminating Sunday voting would favor any one party over the other.

Collins then clarified the comments advocating to “whip them up from the pulpit” have been from Black churches. He also expressed concern with long lines and wait times if such groups did gather en masse to vote.

State Board of Elections Secretary Stella Anderson made a motion to approve plan C, “the People’s Plan,” which maximizes Saturday and Sunday voting windows. The vote was tied with two in opposition and two in favor before board chair Damon Circosta voted in support, resulting in the motion carrying.

The Rowan County Board of Elections will meet virtually on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. to discuss early voting sites, social distancing at voting locations, drop boxes and Democracy Heroes. The board will also provide dates and times it will count absentee ballots. Locals interested in tuning in can visit bit.ly/rowanboe0901 and enter passcode 090120. Anyone who wishes to join via phone can dial 213-338-8477, 602-753-0140 or 720-928-9299, with webinar ID 966-4988-7756 and passcode 090120.

Counties must have at least one early voting site for every 20,000 registered voters. The county currently has the following sites established as early voting locations:

  • Rowan County Board of Elections in Salisbury, located at the West End Plaza, 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W.
  • American Legion Building in Rockwell, located at 8580 U.S. 52.
  • South Rowan Public Library in China Grove, located at 920 Kimball Rd.
  • Cleveland Town Hall, located at 302 East Main St.
  • Spencer Municipal Building, located at 600 South Salisbury Ave.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the state board chair broke the tie vote. 

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.