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Northampton approves new voting tabulators, adds extra One Stop site

JACKSON – Northampton County is gearing up for the upcoming election though expanding early voting sites and ordering new voting tabulators.

Elections Director Spinosa Clements updated the Board of Commissioners at their meeting here on Aug. 17 about the status of preparations for the general election. She first presented the tabulator contract for approval to the Board.

The funds for the 20 new tabulators, which were anticipated and already included in this fiscal year’s budget, total $107,106.

Clements originally presented the tabulator request information to the commissioners back in February, explaining that the current equipment was more than a decade old and close to the end of its projected lifetime of use. The new equipment was tested during the early voting period before the March primary election.

At Monday’s meeting, the vote for the contract approval was unanimous after a motion from Commissioner Geneva Faulkner and a second from Commissioner Kelvin Edwards.

Board Chair Charles Tyner also asked Clements to update the commissioners on preparations for the upcoming general election in November. He stated that the top priority is making sure everyone has the opportunity to vote.

The elections director announced they will have one additional One Stop (early voting) site this year along with the three the county usually operates. That new site will be at the Meherrin Cultural Arts Center, located at 8900 NC Hwy 35, Severn.

The other One Stop sites available to voters include the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center (9536 NC Hwy 305, Jackson), Cool Spring Community Center (101 Cherry Street, Gaston), and Creecy Gymnasium (210 Roberts Road, Rich Square).

The first day for early voting will be Thursday, Oct. 15 and continue through Saturday, Oct. 31. Sites will not be open on Sundays. The sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. during the weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, except for the last Saturday which will close at 3 p.m.

“We’re always looking for additional precinct officials and those to work early voting sites,” Clements added. “I’d rather have too many trained than not enough.”

Volunteers must be registered to vote in Northampton County as well as able to read and write, be of good moral character, and can attend training. They may be asked to serve throughout different locations in the county.

Clements also reported they had already received over 300 requests for absentee ballots so far. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Oct. 27.

The News Herald followed up with Clements for more information about what health and safety measures will be taken at One Stop and election day polling sites as well as the costs associated for the county.

“Northampton County will have all voting sites professionally sanitized before voting begins and after the voting period has ended. Additionally, precinct officials will be sanitizing high traffic areas throughout the day,” she explained.

Sites will also have table barriers, installed by the Public Works department, set up between voters and election staff. Signage and social distancing markers will be placed at each site to guide people when they come to cast their vote. There will also be hand sanitizing stations at entrance and exits.

Items such as pens and curbside voting privacy containers will not be reused between voters.

“Election staff are required to wear PPE (personal protective equipment),” she continued. “Voters will be offered PPE, which will be provided by our office.”

Clements said they have a small supply of PPE already, but she is expecting a portion of the materials to come from the State Board of Elections (SBE).

The SBE will also distribute funding to counties across North Carolina in order to help handle election costs. Additionally, each county has received a subgrant from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) to help fund this election.

The elections director reported that it will cost approximately $46,600 to operate the four early voting sites this year. The overall cost for the sanitization is estimated to be about $11,000.

“(We) are doing everything possible to ensure that voting is fair, impartial, and safe for all voters during this pandemic,” Clements concluded.

For more information, call the Northampton County Board of Elections Office at 252-534-5681.