BEAUFORT — In expectation of low turnout, Carteret County elections officials this week approved an early voting plan with pared back hours.
During its Tuesday regular monthly meeting in the Beaufort offices, the County Board of Elections opted to shorten daily hours at one-stop sites by an hour and a half.
Under the plan adopted when the board reconvened Wednesday morning, the sites will run weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 through Friday, Oct 29. There will be one Saturday early voting period, Oct. 30, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., as required by state law.
In previous town elections, the one-stop sites have remained open until 7:30 p.m. on weekdays.
In advising the board Tuesday, BOE deputy director Margot Burke saidshe expects municipal voters will use absentee-by-mail voting at an increased pace due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I think our one-stop turnout this year is going to be minimal,” she said.
The board agreed.
In July, the panel voted to open three early voting sites – Fort Benjamin Park Recreation Center in Newport, Western Park Community Center in Cedar Point and the BOE offices in Beaufort – despite a staff recommendation to narrow site offerings to two.
Turnout in municipal elections in Carteret County historicallyis low. According to state data, 19.71% of voters in the county cast a ballot in the 2019 elections, while 17.4% voted in the 2017 municipals.
“I’m thinking overall voter turnout will be about the same, but maybe less turnout for in-person voting,” BOE Director Caitlin Sabadish told the News-Times Wednesday. She noted she, too, expects more mail-in balloting given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the area.
Adoption of the one-stop plan by county election boards requires a unanimous vote. One member was absent from the Tuesday meeting, causing the board to reconvene for final adoption Wednesday. Two members participated remotely by phone for Wednesday’s meeting.
Carteret County’s municipal elections are set for Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Also during Tuesday’s proceedings, the board voted 4-0 to approve temporary precinct transfers for municipal election day.
Under the approved plan, eligible voters in the North River precinct and the Beaufort No. 2 precinct will vote in Beaufort No. 1, at the Boys and Girls Club on Mulberry Street. Eligible voters in the Newport No. 2 precinct will cast ballots at Newport No. 1, with St. James United Methodist Church on Orange Street the polling place. Finally, eligible municipal voters in the Wildwood precinct will vote in either Newport No. 1 or Morehead No. 4, depending on which town they live in. Morehead No. 4 uses Open Door Baptist Church on Highway 24 as its polling place.
The changes are effective only for the 2021 municipal election and the BOE plans to notify all affected voters by mail.
Any county voter eligible to cast a ballot in fall races can vote at any of the one-stop sites during the early voting period.
In other action at Tuesday’s elections meeting, the board:
- Heard from Carteret County League of Women Voter co-president Carol Geer that the organization is planning three candidate forums ahead of the fall elections.
- Unanimously approved a list of individuals to serve as chief judges and judges at each polling place Nov. 2. All have prior experience, according to staff.
- Heard an update from Ms. Sabadish on a “wellness check” of local processes performed earlier this month by the N.C. State Board of Elections.
- Reviewed details of precinct training dates for the fall elections.
Contact Jackie Starkey at 252-726-7081, ext. 225; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @jackieccnt.