In these current crazy and unprecedented times, what is true is that any situation where many people gather together poses a risk for the transmission of COVID-19.
While we all know that it is critical for all of us to vote in the upcoming 2020 US Elections, what is just as critical is ensuring that voting is conducted in the safest way possible.
So without further ado, let’s jump right into our list of 8 things you need to know regarding voting during a pandemic in the state of North Carolina.
1. You Do Have a Choice!
Depending on your preference, there are three voting options that are available to you as a registered voter:
- Absentee voting by mail – Anyone who is a registered voter in North Carolina is entitled to request, receive, and vote via a mail-in absentee ballot in most elections. There are no special circumstances needed to vote in the State of North Carolina. For more information, click here.
- Voting at one-stop early voting sites across your county – Anyone who is a registered voter or eligible individual in North Carolina may cast their ballot in-person during the early voting period which is also known as “one-stop early voting”. For more information, click here.
- Election Day voting at your assigned polling place – For those who want to vote in person on election day, polling places are open between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Anyone in line by 7:30 p.m. will be able to vote. Note that the busiest times are generally early in the morning and just prior to the polls closing, so plan ahead. For more information, click here.
2. NCDMV Voter Registration
Via a new partnership, customers of the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles can now apply to register to vote online or update their voter registration address and political affiliation. Note that applying for voter registration through the PayIt online service is free and you do not have to create an account with PayIt. For more information, click here.
3. In-Person Voting Safeguards
For those of you who choose to vote in-person, there are a number of safeguards which have been put into place for your protection, with some of the more notable ones being:
- Social distancing – some of the required measures are:
- Signage at all voting places to remind both voters and workers to stay 6 feet apart from others
- Physical guides, such as tape markings on the floor/sidewalks and signs on the walls to ensure that voters stay at least 6 feet apart while waiting in line to vote
- Cloth face coverings – wearing cloth face coverings has been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 according to the latest research.
- Election workers must wear face coverings when they are within 6 feet of another person (unless an exception applies)
- Election workers must encourage all voters, electioneers, and observers to wear face coverings and should offer face coverings to those who do not have them
- Voting places will have enough face coverings for all election workers, voters, observers, and electioneers who do not have one
- Single Use Pens and Q-tips – For counties that use hand-marked paper ballots, single-use pens will be provided. For voters who use ballot-marking devices, Q-tips will be provided.
- Cleaning and Hygiene – Election workers at all voting places are mandated to perform ongoing and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas (e.g., doors, doorknobs, rails, tables, chairs) with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and increase disinfection during peak voting times.
4. Election Worker Safeguards
There are several significant safeguards in place to protect workers and election officials against COVID-19, with some of the more notable ones being:
- Face shields and gloves – Face shields and gloves will be provided for all election workers
- Barriers – Barriers will be erected between election workers and voters at check-in tables
- Recruiting – Poll workers have been recruited who are less vulnerable to the virus
- Hand sanitizer – Hand sanitizer and masks will be provided for election workers (and voters) who do not bring their own
5. More About Absentee Ballots
The NC General Assembly, based on recommendations from the State Board of Elections, passed laws in 2020 which simplify absentee by-mail voting. This includes the reduction of ballot witnesses from two people to one, as well as permitting requests to be submitted via email, fax, and online.
6. The Federal CARES Act of 2020
$13.1 million was provided to the State of North Carolina by the federal CARES Act of 2020. This money has been used by the 100 counties in NC to conduct elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
7. This Has Been Take Seriously
The North Carolina Task Force on Elections and COVID-19 Response, which is comprised of state and county officials and an Emergency Management representative, has been meeting since March 2020. This group has been providing advice on the necessary steps that must be taken in order to respond to the pandemic and ensure voting is both accessible and safe in 2020.
8. NCDHHS Guidance
The phased approach that Governor Cooper has implemented to slowly lift restrictions while combatting COVID-19 to protect North Carolinians does include specific guidance for election voting locations. The guidance, which was adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Considerations for Election Polling Locations and Voters, can be viewed here if you really want to understand what is mandatory and what is recommended.
Now that you have a better idea of what to expect and know regarding voting in North Carolina, you can get out there and vote with confidence…Community Confidence!