The Alexander County Board of Elections met during a public meeting on February 15 to discuss and adopt a one-stop early voting plan for the May 17 Primary Election, said Patrick Wike, Alexander County Board of Elections Director. The five member bi-partisan board unanimously adopted a plan to operate one early voting site, the Alexander Senior center. The Alexander Senior Center will be open 12 weekdays (8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and 3 Saturdays (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.). The early voting period begins Thursday, April 28, and ends Saturday, May 14, 2022.
The NC General Assembly enacted legislation that added requirements for opening additional early voting sites. Session Law 2018-112 and 2019-239 require that if a county board chooses to add additional early voting sites, all additional sites must be open all 12 weekdays during the early voting period 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. All sites must also be open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the Saturday before election day. A county board has no authority to open an additional early voting site to operate less than the 13 mandatory days, weekdays, 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
In the 2014 and 2018 mid-term primary elections, additional early voting sites were open 5 weekdays (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) and the last Saturday (8 a.m.-1 p.m.) for a total of 45 hours. NC law now requires that if these sites were to be opened for the 2022 primary, they would be required to operate 12 weekdays (8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and one Saturday (8 a.m.-3 p.m.) for a total of 145 hours. Opening an additional site requires a 222% increase in hours compared to the 2018 primary election. Mid-term primary elections have a lower voter turnout compared to other elections. The 2014 primary had a 15.69% voter turnout in Alexander County. While the 2018 Primary had a 8.87% voter turnout. With an expected lower turnout election, county Boards are faced with a tough decision regarding opening additional early voting sites.
While only one early voting site will be open for the 2022 Primary Election, The Board intends on opening three early voting sites for the 2022 General Election.
“It’s unfortunate County Boards no longer have the flexibility to open additional early voting sites to run a limited schedule, current State Law dictates an all or nothing approach regarding additional early voting sites” said Ray Warren, Board of Elections Chairman. “We wish we could open additional early voting sites at Bethlehem Fire Department and Hiddenite Fire department to run a reduced schedule similar to the 2014 and 2018 primary elections, but NC law prohibits County Boards of Elections from doing that. We fully intend on opening all 3 early voting locations for the general election, as expected voter turnout will be higher in that election,” said Nancy Sharpe, Board Member.
Early Voting Schedule is available online: https://alexandercountync.gov/pdf/board-of-elections/one-stop-early_voting.pdf.
The Alexander County Board of Elections is located at 370 1st Avenue SW, Taylorsville, NC, phone 828-632-2990.