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Early voting for 2021 municipal elections begin Oct. 14

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Early voting for the 2021 municipal elections in Rowan County will begin on Oct. 14 and span until Oct. 30, providing a total of 17 days of early voting that includes three Saturdays and two Sundays.

Each one of Rowan County’s municipalities this year will have seats up for grabs. More than 60 candidates have declared runs for 42 seats across the county. This year will also be the first time Salisbury voters can directly elect the mayor in addition to council members.

On Sept. 10, the North Carolina Board of Elections selected Rowan County’s early voting plan after the county board failed to unanimously approve a plan in August.

Each weekday beginning Oct. 14 and spanning until Oct. 30 will allow voting between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Voters can cast a ballot on the three Saturdays of one-stop voting — Oct. 16, 23 and 30 — from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., while Sunday voting will span from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. There is only one early voting site this year, which is the Rowan County Board of Elections office at 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. West.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 8. North Carolinians can register at the Rowan County Board of Elections office, a local DMV office or online by visiting ncdot.gov/dmv, scrolling down to “NCDMV Online Services” and selecting “Voter Registration Application” from the drop-down menu that states “More Options.”

Additionally, a recent North Carolina Superior Court ruling now allows convicted felons in North Carolina to register to vote if they meet certain conditions. Those who are eligible to register include those serving an extended term of probation, those in post-release supervision due to outstanding fines, fees or restitution and those whose parole was extended.

Voter registration applications submitted fewer than 25 days before the election will not be processed until after the election, but voters may still register in-person using same-day registration.

Election Day is Nov. 2, with the opportunity to cast a ballot between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at municipal precincts. Voters can check their closest voting precinct by reviewing their voter registration information.

Sunday voting was also authorized for the 2020 election because of the state board, but this will be the first municipal election that includes opportunities to cast a ballot on Sundays. Rowan County Board of Elections Executive Director Brenda McCubbins told the Post she anticipates a higher turnout because there are two additional days of early voting provided for the 2021 municipal election compared to the 2019 municipal election. Additionally, McCubbins cited the record turnout of early one-stop voting in 2020, but added that the overall turnout is expected to be much lower since it’s not a presidential election. She said about 2,300 early one-stop ballots were cast in the 2019 election.

“It won’t look anything like last year,” McCubbins said.

However, McCubbins said she also anticipates higher turnout for early voting since the county board has only received 20 absentee by mail ballot requests so far. Absentee voting can begin on Oct. 1, and the deadline to request a ballot is Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Absentee by mail ballots must be submitted to the county board of elections office no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 2.

COVID-19 precautions will be in place for this year’s election, though they may not be as stringent as protocols in place for 2020. McCubbins said the state sent a memo to all county boards on Monday outlining some of the precautions to be implemented, which include social distancing, individual pens provided to voters, hand sanitizer and plexiglass shields at check-in stations. Like 2020, masks are encouraged but won’t be required.

“Poll workers and observers can be required to wear masks in the voting place if the building requires it,” McCubbins said. “However, voters cannot be required to wear a mask to enter the building. We will have masks available for anyone wishing to wear one.”

McCubbins said elections officials are not expected to clean each voting booth after every vote cast this year and instead will clean them at least once each day. All COVID-19 protocols come from recommendations from both the state board and the CDC.

“Whatever they tell us, that’s what we will implement,” she said.

McCubbins also said elections officials will use a surplus of supplies from the 2020 election, including ink pens and cleaning supplies that have been stored by the county’s Emergency Medical Services department.

“Even though they’ll say 2020, we’re still going to use them,” she said, adding that it reduces the cost burden for individual municipalities that are responsible for funding their elections.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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