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Hertford Co. will open two early voting sites

WINTON – In anticipation of a large turnout for the upcoming General Election, Hertford County’s top elections official is already making plans to handle an expected surge of voters.

Shelia Privott, Director of the county’s Board of Elections, updated the Hertford County Commissioners on those plans during their scheduled meeting here Monday night.

She said the county will operate two, One-Stop (early voting) sites – one at the Board of Elections office located on Everett Street in Ahoskie, and the other at the Murfree Center, located on Broad Street in Murfreesboro.

Both sites will be in operation Oct. 15-31; weekdays from 8 am until 7:30 pm; three Saturdays (Oct. 17, 24, and 31) from 8 am until 3 pm; and two Sundays (Oct. 18 and 25) from 1-4 pm.

“We will be working 17 straight days at our One-Stop sites,” Privott said, adding that the state has increased funding to counties to help offset the costs of operating those sites as well as funding to purchase health safety supplies due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Privott told the commissioners that she is using a higher number of requests thus far for absentee ballots as an indicator of what is expected to be an extremely busy election.

“We’ve already processed, as of 5 pm today (Monday, Aug. 17), 344 absentee by mail applications,” Privott noted. “We’re getting busy.”

She added that the ballots for the Nov. 3 election should be ready by early next month.

“When we received those ballots, we will mail them to those whose applications for an absentee by mail ballot has been approved,” Privott said.

John Horton, vice-chairman of the board, asked Privott if she thought national concerns over the proposed operational cutbacks at the US Postal Service would have any impact on county citizens who are using an absentee mail in ballot.

“We are as equipped as the state requires, and we have a good rapport with our local post offices,” she answered.

Elections staff statewide are scrambling to process requests. According to a story by Julie Havlak with the Carolina Journal News Service, North Carolina has already exceeded the number of absentee by mail ballots requested in 2016. In the last presidential election, just 5% of ballots came by mail, and the state recorded about 231,000 absentee ballot requests. As of Aug. 18 there have been 295,959 requests statewide.

Meanwhile, as mail-in absentee ballot requests surge in North Carolina, the State Board of Elections this week released an improved North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Form for the Nov. 3 election. Updates to the request form include a cleaner design and improved accessibility and use for all voters.

“This new form is more user friendly and one of many steps we have taken to make voting simpler for North Carolinians in the era of COVID-19,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “Whether by mail or in-person, we want folks to vote in the manner they’re most comfortable with this fall.”

The absentee ballot request form can be mailed, emailed, faxed or returned in-person to the individual’s county board of elections.

The State Board also will launch an online absentee ballot request portal by Sept. 1. Through the portal, voters will be able to request a ballot completely online, with no need to print out or mail a request form.

No special circumstance or reason is needed to request, receive, and vote an absentee ballot. Any North Carolina registered voter may request and receive a mail-in absentee ballot for the 2020 general election.

Although the request deadline is 5 p.m. Oct. 27, the State Board encourages voters who wish to vote by mail to request a ballot as soon as possible. This will help voters avoid any problems caused by U.S. Postal Service delays.

County board of elections will begin sending ballots on Sept. 4 to those who request them. If an individual requests a ballot and does not receive it between Sept. 15-20, they are encouraged to contact their county board of elections office.

Along with the new form, the previous State Absentee Ballot Request Form is still a valid form for the 2020 general election.

As always, North Carolina voters have three options for voting: mail-in absentee, in-person during the early voting period, and in-person on Election Day. Significant health safeguards will be in place for voters who cast their ballot in person.

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.

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