Board of Elections decides early voting schedule after lengthy public discussion

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, August 2, 2023

SALISBURY — The Board of Elections voted Tuesday to adopt a 15-day early voting schedule after citizens from all across Rowan County showed up to argue for and against extending the schedule past the state mandated 13-day period.

The early voting period runs from Oct. 19 to Nov. 4, and the state mandates counties keep polling locations open every weekday and the last Saturday. The counties themselves can decide whether or not voting is allowed on Sundays and every other Saturday, which was the issue brought before the board Tuesday.

The 15 minutes allotted for public comment became 20 as some attendees argued for the board to open up voting for all 17 days during the period and some argued against adding additional days. Public comments were held to one minute for each person because of the amount of speakers, lower than the typically allowed three minutes.

Those who argued for the maximum amount of days cited the fact that Rowan County only has one polling place as an argument that more days should be allowed, saying that it would be difficult for some voters to make it on weekdays.

“My husband doesn’t get time off to vote from his job. He’s supposed to, but he doesn’t. Without several days of early voting, it becomes even more challenging to find the time to make it out to the polling. The best laid plans get turned upside down, and people need options” said Elim Craighill-Middleton.

On the other side, attendees argued that having voting open for 17 consecutive days could be unfair to workers and cause issues with fatigue. Some also argued that if someone wants to vote, they will find a way to make it to the polling location.

“I have to build a team of poll observers and for them to have extended days would put an undue burden on them for 17 days straight. We are Rowan County. I would strongly urge you to keep it as it is and not extend the days. Don’t let Raleigh dictate it,” said Michael Frazier.

If the board was not able to come to an unanimous agreement on the early voting schedule, the State Board of Elections would have been forced to set the schedule for the County.

The board members were just as split as the public comments, with Kenneth Stutts and Catrelia Hunter in favor of 17 days and Loutricia Cain and Dwight Collins against. Eventually, however, the members of the board agreed that meeting in the middle and adopting a 15-day early voting period would provide the best compromise.

The adopted period will include Mondays through Fridays being open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The polling place will also be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on two Saturdays, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, as well as being open from 1 to 5 p.m. on one Sunday, Oct. 22.

In other news from the meeting, elections staff is still searching for a replacement for Knox Middle School. Due to the school’s planned reconstruction, it will not be available as a voting location in November. The plan is to have a new location selected by the board’s next meeting on Aug. 22.