Guilford County Board of Elections approves early-voting planBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / July 9, 2020
With early voting for the 2020 Elections slated to start in the next few months, Guilford County Board of Elections officials met on July 7 to discuss how that might look amid COVID-19 concerns.
The main issue of concern was varying location sizes and how to comply with social distancing guidelines, in particular, at small sites like the Jamestown Town Hall.
The board approved a proposal in a 3-2 vote, to include 25 early-voting sites throughout the county, an increase of early voting hours, and sanitation measures to abide by social distancing rules. Under the tentative new plan, early voting would span 17 days, starting on October 15 and ending October 31, which also includes Sunday voting.
Guilford County Board of Elections Executive Director Charlie Collicutt noted that the plan has to be reviewed by the State Board of Elections before taking effect.Board of Elections Chairman Horace “Jim” Kimel noted that the new plan includes an 87 percent increase of early voting hours from 2,410 in 2016 to 4,525 hours in 2020. Elections officials say this is to help ensure everyone has the chance to vote. The Elections office is also anticipating an increase in mail-in ballots this year.
“We can’t make people vote by mail or make them vote in certain locations or in split times,” said Kimel. “We still have voters we have to take care of. We should make sure we give everyone the opportunity to vote.”
Officials also discussed how to accommodate long lines on the last day of voting. Board member Kathryn Lindley said she was concerned the county could open itself up to liability if they aren’t able to provide adequate safety measures for voters.
“Some places have one way in and one way out. There’s no way to truly social distance,” said Lindley.
Board members also suggested the use of larger spaces like the gymnasium on the GTCC Jamestown campus or High Point’s new baseball stadium.
“I’m in favor of providing more opportunity for the voter than anything else. I don’t think we ought to make size such an issue. It’s incumbent upon the board to make sure that we go and visit the sites and become creative enough to deal with whatever we need to deal with as a board,” said board member Rev. T. Anthony Spearman.
According to Collicutt, the county could hire a professional cleaning company to disinfect the voting sites every day, at $1000 per site per day. The county has received about $330,000 in grant money that would be used to cover the cleaning bill. In addition to cleaning and the required voting machines and tables, each site would also need PPE (personal protection equipment), plexiglass barriers and extra volunteers.
“We’re not going to wait until the end of the night. There will be cleaning as we go throughout the day,” said Collicutt.
For more information on early-voting sites and mail-in voting visit, http://www.guilfordcountync.gov/our-county/board-of-elections.