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Rowan Board of Elections talks plans for Election Day, early, absentee voting

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With just two months until the general election and a little more than six weeks until early voting, the Rowan County Board of Elections met Tuesday to discuss its preparations.

As part of the state’s increased funding to county boards of elections to ensure safer voting, Rowan County will receive a shipment of personal protective equipment between Sept. 7 and Sept. 11. That shipment will include face masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves and alcohol pads or disinfecting solution with paper towels.

Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins said an ink pen will be available for every voter as well. And each precinct will have someone whose sole job is cleaning.

Board member George W. Benson previously expressed concern with the ability to social distance at several precincts, including the Spencer Municipal Building. McCubbins said voters may have to walk past others to enter and exit the building, but the number of people allowed inside will be limited, resulting in longer waits outside. Additionally, there may be fewer booths in the buildings as every station will be spaced at least 6 feet apart.

Each voting location is staffed with a chief judge, judge and assistants. The chief judge is in charge of the voting location on election day and opens and closes the polls. A judge, either a Democrat or Republican, works closely with the chief judge to assist with setting up voting machines and attending to voters. Assistants help with tasks like completing paperwork and tidying up the precinct.

Judges are appointed by the county board based on political party and staff recommendations. McCubbins said chief judges will reach out to the board if they need more assistants, and currently at least 40 of the 41 precincts have chief judges.

Benson said he was “very concerned with having enough people to work the polls.” But there are currently 300 completed interest forms from people who’d like to help at voting locations. Those people are entered into a system and placed on a waiting list, McCubbins said.

The five Rowan County Board of Elections members will be responsible for counting and approving absentee ballots. Those dates and times are:

• Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 12:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 12:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 12:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 12:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 12:30 p.m.
• Monday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m.

The board will also meet on Election Day, Nov. 3, to count absentee ballots at 2 p.m. Additionally, on Nov. 12, the board will count supplemental absentee ballots and provisional ballots. The canvass is Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. Canvassing the election is something the board does to confirm and count every valid ballot from absentee, early voting, Election Day, provisional, challenged and uniformed and overseas citizens.

At these meetings, which will be in-person for board members and virtual for the public, board members will feed absentee ballots into a DS200 voting machine. Each of the 41 precincts is equipped with a DS200 voting machine, and each early voting site will also have one present.

Board members, however, expressed concern for the amount of time it would take to feed each absentee ballot into the machine when they meet. McCubbins said there will be at least two machines available, and she’s looking into using one more.

Members estimated it may take at least two hours to feed all ballots into the machines at each meeting.

“It’s going to be time-consuming,” she said.

As of Tuesday, the county has received nearly 6,500 absentee ballot requests. The board will begin mailing ballots on Sept. 4.

The state Board of Elections on Monday determined Rowan County’s early voting plan, which 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.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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