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Northampton Elections Board receives grants

JACKSON – With less than two months before the general election on Nov. 3, county boards of elections across the state are working to be as prepared as possible for voting during a pandemic.

At the Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting here on Sept. 21, County Elections Director Spinosa Clements announced they had recently received grant funding which will help ensure the election is conducted with necessary health and safety precautions. She asked the commissioners for approval to accept the funds.

Some of the funding will actually come from federal subgrants which will be distributed through the state: the CARES Act subgrant and the HAVA subgrant. Northampton County will also receive an additional grant through the Election Administration Assistance Fund of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

“The CARES grant is specifically for polling place sanitizing, [recruiting more] precinct officials, anything to make sure that we are having safe, secure voting places for our voters to come out and exercise their right,” she explained.

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) allocated over $10.9 million to North Carolina to help prepare for the upcoming election. The NC General Assembly also approved an additional match of $2.1 million to be used throughout the state. Northampton County will receive $55,080 of these funds.

North Carolina received $11.6 million from HAVA (Help America Vote Act) funds as well, with a $2.3 million match from the NC General Assembly. These funds will be used to reimburse counties for expenditures including making election security improvements, training poll workers, improving accessibility to polling places, and more.

“They can be used for things like extra laptops to support additional sites,” Clements noted as one example.

For the HAVA subgrant, there’s a minimum reimbursement amount of $10,000 per county. Funds can be reimbursed through the end of June 2021.

The third grant, which is from the NC Community Foundation, will total $29,000.

“It will be for us to have additional staff members, whether it be on election day or during early voting,” Clements explained the use of those new funds.

She also noted that any remaining funds from that grant would be sent back afterwards.

Since the subgrants were sent through the state, the commissioners only needed to provide approval for the Community Foundation grant. They quickly voiced that approval with a unanimous vote after Commissioner Nicole Boone motioned and Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe seconded.

While speaking before the Board, Clements also updated them on the county’s progress on preparing as the election draws closer.

“I’m very happy to say we’ve had 83 people confirm they’re willing to work for election day. That’s probably about 25 more than we budgeted for to begin with, but they will definitely be needed,” she reported.

She added they still needed more people to help with One Stop early voting as well as with the multi-partisan assistance team (MAT) which helps voters who live at facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.

Board Chair Charles Tyner urged citizens to contact the Elections Office if they’re interested in volunteering to help.

“We do expect a high turnout for our voting this year, and we want to be prepared for whatever situation we find ourselves in,” he continued.

Northampton County will operate four One Stop early voting sites this year beginning Thursday, Oct. 15 through Saturday, Oct. 31. The sites will not be open on Sundays. Voters can visit any of the One Stop sites to cast their vote at the following locations: Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center (9536 NC Hwy 305, Jackson), Cool Spring Community Center (101 Cherry Street, Gaston), Creecy Gymnasium (210 Roberts Road, Rich Square), and Meherrin Cultural Arts Center (8900 NC Hwy 35, Severn).

Each One Stop site 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 Saturday, Oct. 31. Those hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The voter registration deadline is Oct. 9. Those wishing to vote by absentee ballot must request their ballot by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27.

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