Voting early – What you need to know before the polls open
Sandra Martin doesn’t vote on Election Day, but she never misses an opportunity to vote.
Shorter lines and the convenience of voting on Saturdays have led Martin, (pictured at left) a Union County Public Schools administrative assistant, and her husband, Scott, to vote early each year.
“Scott and I both work, so it’s hard to get to the polls on Election Day,” she said. “Voting early is less stressful and more convenient. Normally, there aren’t long lines.”
One of the areas on the ballot that Martin will consider is the $54 million bond referendum for Union County Public Schools, slated to provide renovations and additions to six schools (Western Union Elementary; Monroe, Porter Ridge, Sun Valley and Piedmont high schools; and Porter Ridge Middle School) and build a new UCPS transportation facility.
Martin will have plenty of opportunities to vote early, as voting sites will open on Oct. 20 and remain open until Nov. 5.
The early voting location at the Monroe library is open from 8:30 am until 7 pm., beginning Oct. 20. All other voting locations will be open from 10 am until 7 pm Monday through Friday and from 8:30 am until 5 pm on Saturdays.
There are seven locations at which to vote early: Hemby Bridge VFD, 6628 Mill Grove Road, Indian Trail; Mineral Springs VFD, 5804 Waxhaw Hwy., Monroe; Stallings VFD, 4616 Old Monroe Road, Indian Trail; Wesley Chapel VFD (Main) 315 Waxhaw Indian Trail Road South, Waxhaw; Wesley Chapel VFD, 8821 New Town Road, Waxhaw; Wingate Community Center 315 W. Elm St. Wingate; and Union County Public Library (Griffin Room) 316 East Windsor St. Monroe.
For those who want to vote early, there are basically two types of early voting – one-stop absentee voting and mail-in absentee voting. When a person goes to an early voting site, it’s called “one-stop absentee voting.” It allows registered voters to vote in person on select days prior to Election Day.
But voters can also cast their ballots by mail in what is traditionally known as absentee voting.
Mary Rhodes, the Union County Board of Elections absentee coordinator, said there have always been early voting opportunities, but voters could only vote absentee under limited circumstances such as being out of the country or physically disabled.
In 2000, however, the law changed to allow people to vote absentee without having to meet any criteria. In other words, they needed “no excuse.”
North Carolina is one of 27 states in the country to offer “no-excuse” absentee voting. That means any registered voter can request an absentee ballot without being required to give a reason why they can’t vote in person on Election Day.
To have a ballot mailed to one’s home, a voter can go to the Board of Election’s office and fill out the absentee ballot request form.
He/she can also request an absentee ballot online by going to the Board of Election’s website, and scrolling down to “Absentee Ballot Request Form.” Print the form, fill it out and either take it in person or mail it to the address given.
Once the information is entered into the system, a ballot will be mailed to the person, with an envelope in which to seal the ballot for return to the Board of Elections.
The absentee voter must mark his ballot either in the presence of a notary or two witnesses. It then has to be sealed in the provided envelope and either mailed or brought to the Board of Election’s office in person by 5 pm on Nov. 7.
John Whitley, (pictured at right) director of Union County Board of Elections, said he and his staff have worked very hard to encourage early voting for a very good reason.
“Union County has the same number of precincts (52) today as there were 20 years ago,” he said. “If we didn’t have early voting, we would have to have double the precincts to handle the turnout all on one day.”
Those who prefer to vote on Election Day (Nov. 8) are required by law to be registered with the Board of Elections by Oct. 14, which is 25 days prior to Election Day. If the Oct. 14 deadline is missed, the only option is to vote absentee.
“If you miss the Oct. 14 deadline, you can register and vote in the early-voting period,” said Kristin Jacumin, Board of Elections deputy director. “You will be required to provide documentation as to your identity and residence.”
Voting early is a good idea this year; Whitley said, because of a very important change in the voting process — no more straight-party ticket (voting for every candidate in a particular political party, usually with the click of one button on the ballot).
This could slow things down at the polls considerably because more than 60 percent of Union County’s 148,000 registered voters historically vote a straight-party ticket.
A straight-party ticket is when a person votes for every candidate in a particular political party, usually with the click of one button on the ballot.
“The voting time at each precinct is going to be greater than it’s ever been before,” Whitley said. “They can’t just walk into the booth and vote straight party anymore.”
Whitley said another reason to vote early is the anticipation of double the number of voters because it’s a presidential election. In Union County, 70 percent of registered voters are expected to vote this November.
“Normally, in the primaries, you have 30 to 40 percent voting, but during a presidential election, you have percentages in the 70s,” Whitley said. “We had 72 percent in 2008, and 70 percent in 2012.”
Luckily, most of those voted early. Of the 72 percent who voted in 2008, 66 percent voted early, either through one-stop voting or mail-in/absentee ballots. In 2012, 63 percent voted early.
To see a sample ballot, go to the Board of Elections’ website and scroll down to “Check My Registration and Find My Sample Ballot.” Then fill out the search criteria.
This will give the voter’s precinct, voting districts, voting history, and a sample ballot.
Martin said getting a sample ballot gives her time to research the candidates and referendums on which she will be voting.
For more information, call the Union County Board of Elections at (704) 283-3809 or email them at email@example.com.
Posted: Oct. 10, 2016