Rowan County Board of Elections addresses concern about poll observers, releases voting totals

Published 12:01 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon addressed a concern voiced by a citizen regarding election observers that has arisen within the first few days of early voting.

During public comment, Cathy Basinger of Salisbury brought up a concern about the conduct of observers in Salisbury. The Board of Elections approves a list of election observers from both the Rowan County Republican and Democratic parties. Basinger spoke with the board about the visible discomfort of voters when interacting with the observers, saying voters are scared and unhappy.

“There’s a difference between observing and having somebody glaring,” she said. “We have dealt with observers in past elections and haven’t had a problem but that isn’t the case this year.”

Basinger said observers at the polls have acted “petty and unjustified” in their reporting to superiors. Basinger said she fears the observers’ behavior will prevent voters from coming to the polls because the observers are stepping outside of their intended role.

The N.C. State Board of Elections has a list on its website outlining the job expectations and duties of these observers. This includes passing out campaign material and sample ballots, speaking to voters, conducting polls and monitoring and reporting concerns and complaints. They are prohibited to enter any polling place unless they are voting themselves and cannot obstruct, intimidate or interfere with any person registering or voting.

The Rowan County Board of Elections plans to reiterate those guidelines to observers. Board of Elections Chair John Hudson also suggested providing the list of guidelines to each polling site so workers can have it on hand.

The board also updated its poll observer list, adding two new judges to precinct four located at Atwell Volunteer Fire Department in Bradshaw and removing four judges from the Republican observer list.

Additionally, the board discussed a one-stop curbside flag that was asked to be removed because it violated city ordinance. Elections Director Brenda McCubbins says it was removed for “flapping in the wind,” which can obstruct the view of curbside voters when seeing where they need to go. The Board of Elections was advised to submit a request to the city of Salisbury for temporary stationing, which would allow signs up to 50 square-feet to be displayed five times a year for 30 days at a time once a permit is acquired. Board of Elections Member Dwight “Dave” Collins suggested going to the State Board of Elections with the Code of Ordinances to see if the issue can be overridden in addition to obtaining a permit.

The Board of Elections also announced that 2,097 votes, including 58 absentee ballots and 2,039 one-stop ballots, have been cast in the primary election as of Tuesday.