Stanly Board of Elections works through COVID-19 restrictions to serve voters

Published 9:52 am Thursday, October 29, 2020

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The Stanly County Board of Elections has been working to reassure citizens can cast their votes.

Mail-in voting has been a popular option, according to Stanly County Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Blackwelder.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot expired this week. All requests up to 5 p.m. Tuesday would be honored, Blackwelder said.

As of Wednesday, Stanly had issued 4,452 ballots and received back approximately 2,940 via mail and other methods. Ballots postmarked by 5 p.m. Tuesday will count towards the overall results, which Blackwelder said will not be official until Nov. 12, the day before the results are set to be made official. She added the standard for many years was to allow for three business days for mail-in votes to be received and counted.

More people have voted early in the current election than in the 2016 Presidential Election, Blackwelder said. She believed more people voted early to not wait until the last minute in case they got sick.

According to numbers from the Stanly Board of Election, in 2016, early voting and absentee ballots accounted for 20,078 total votes in the election, while through the middle of this week with early voting still open and mail-in ballots to be accepted through Election Day, the number has risen to 21,450 votes cast.

She said reports on television news of polling sites having to shut down in other places may have also increased early voting. She said it is possible it could happen here, but added the uncertainty with everything going on has likely gotten more people to vote early.

Votes received in the elections office along with mail and ballots from the precincts in Stanly will be reported unofficially Tuesday evening.

Blackwelder and her staff have also been entering nursing homes and assisted living facilities to assist residents with voting. Those officials can not take the ballot from a resident, she said. The votes must be mailed or taken in person by a family member in the case of facilities on quarantine because of COVID-19.

Tuesday’s process will take a little longer than in the past, she added, because the office can only count two polling places at a time due to COVID-19 concerns with the number of people in the office.

All of the polling places in the county will have curbside voting for anyone with disabilities, she said, including those with a medical risk, like for the coronavirus, or other restrictions. Blackwelder asked voters in the curbside lines to be patient, noting the time for each car to complete the process is “at least 15 minutes.”

She said she felt the tremendous turnout for early voting typically means a lighter turnout on Election Day, adding she believes “the majority of our voters (will) have already voted by Saturday.”

Voters will also be disappointed to not be able to receive the traditional “I Voted” stickers this election, Blackwelder said, due to person-to-person contact restrictions.

She said pens had been ordered which said 2020 Election on them, but they did not arrive in time for early voters. However, Election Day voters will receive the pens to keep after voting.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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