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State Board of Elections approves Sunday voting for 2021 municipal elections in Rowan County

SALISBURY — The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Friday sided with Democrats on the Rowan County Board of Elections in approving two days of Sunday voting.

The plan that garnered four of five votes from the board was “Plan D,” the last of four plans considered by the Rowan board. The issue went to the state after the county board failed to vote unanimously on an early voting plan in August. Friday’s approval means Rowan County will have Sunday voting for the second election in a row after a similar plan passed because of the state board in 2020.

Early voting will run Oct. 14 through Oct. 30.

George W. Benson, a Democrat on the local board, presented the accepted plan to the state board. Republican Dave Collins presented a pair of options that did not include Sunday voting. A plan including no Sundays and two Saturdays was considered by the Rowan board in August but was not presented on Friday.

Collins told the state board Republicans took advantage of Sunday voting in 2020 more than Democrats and unaffiliated voters, but he did not see Sunday voting as necessary. Benson agreed with Collins on the point — that predominantly Republican precincts voted more on Sunday than Democratic-leaning areas.

Benson pointed out a third of the county, including Republican areas, are not close to the early voting site at the Board of Elections office in West End Plaza.

“It was joked at our meeting that I was for 24-hour voting, and I said, ‘absolutely.’ And I would support drop boxes as well,” Benson said. “Any time anybody can get a chance to vote, I’m for it.”

Stella Anderson, a Democrat on the state board, noted most of the voters in the county are at least 15 minutes away from the voting site.

Collins cited his experience as a businessman owning Distinctive Naturescapes to claim no one has ever been prevented from voting because of work commitments or an inability to get to polls on a day other than Sunday.

He said, if it were allowed, someone would vote at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday.

“We believe that same person will still vote on another day at another time if the polls are not open at 1 o’clock on Tuesday,” Collins said.

He said there is no recent history of Sunday voting in Rowan County other than when it was instituted by the local board in 2020.

Stacy “Four” Eggers made a motion to move forward with the plan that included two Saturdays and no Sundays, noting the burden Sunday voting places on the local elections office. Eggers said he would be in favor of additional voting sites instead and was open to more discussion.

The motion failed 3-2, with the Democrat majority on the board voting against while Eggers. Fellow Republican Tommy Tucker voted for Eggers’ motion.

Democrat Jeff Cormon made the motion to approve the Sunday plan, which passed 4-1. Eggers was the only member to vote against the plan.

Anderson noted a large number of people in Rowan County who contributed written public comments, saying all of the commenters argued to adopt the Sunday voting plan.

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