• 63°

One-Stop sites proposed in Bertie County

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Board of Elections plans to open three One-Stop (early voting) sites in advance of the Nov. 3 General Election.

Shelia Holloman, Director of the Bertie County Board of Elections, laid out those plans at last week’s county commissioners meeting.

“We’ve been advised by State Board [of Elections] to offer as many One-Stop hours as we possibly can,” Holloman told the commissioners. “We are proposing to increase the number of One-Stop sites the three sites. We had two sites for the 2016 presidential election.

The three sites proposed for 2020 are the Board of Elections Office in Windsor, the Powellsville Town Hall, and the Lewiston Fire Department.

“We believe these sites will be sufficient to cover the county and convenient for all the voters in the county. We are hoping to avoid long [voting] lines,” Holloman noted.

She stated that standing and waiting in voting lines would present a health hazard due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It may take a little longer to process voters because we are going to implement health and safety procedures [at the sites] and we will practice social distancing,” she said. “We’ve checked and have been told to limit the number of people inside these One-Stop sites to 20.”

Holloman added that the Bertie Board of Elections met July 7, but did not agree to a single plan.

“When a [local] plan is not unanimous, we have to submit it to the State Board for approval,” she noted.

One plan, approved by the three Democrats on the local Elections Board, was to open One-Stop sites for 17 days (Oct. 15-31); Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. at all three locations. There would be two Saturdays that all One-Stop sites would open from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and two Sundays (at all sites) from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The other plan, endorsed by the lone Republican member on the county Elections Board, is the same as the above, excluding both Sundays.

“The State Board will decide at their next meeting which plan we’ll use,” Holloman said. “They will probably meet in early August.”

She stressed that hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance of each One-Stop site and all voters will be offered a face covering. Single-use pens will also be available for the voters to mark their ballots.

All poll workers will wear personal protective equipment, Holloman said.

“We will also be cleaning each area after each voter leaves; that’s going to take some [added] time, so that’s why we’re trying to avoid long lines by opening three sites,” Holloman stressed.

There will be five workers at each One-Stop site, Holloman said. Stand-by workers will be added to a list. Registered voters in the county interested in becoming a One-Stop site worker can contact the Bertie Board of Elections office at 252-794-5306 or visit their website and look for the “Serve Democracy” link.

Commissioner Tammy Lee asked if Holloman’s budget would be enough to handle the extra expense of the COVID-19 related protection costs and the extra hours needed to keep the sites open for 17 days.

“The [federal] CARES Act has set aside money for that,” Holloman answered. “We have been awarded funds we can use for anything that’s outside the costs of a normal election.”

“I’m delighted that we’ll be using three One-Stop sites, especially the three you mentioned because those sites cover the county very well,” remarked Commission Chairman Ron Wesson.

He also mentioned the use of absentee ballots as a way to lessen the number of citizens voting in person.

“That way they don’t have to get in line to vote and come out during this virus,” Wesson noted. “How are we preparing to offer absentee ballots?”

“Actually we have already received several applications and we’re processing those now,” Holloman replied. “All a citizen needs to do is fill out a form – Absentee Ballot Request Form – on our website or the State Board’s website. They fill that form out and we’ll process it. When the time comes we’ll mail them that ballot.”

The deadline to make a request for an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. Those ballots must be postmarked by election day (Nov. 3).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal