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What to expect as you prepare to vote

By Kirk Stephens • Guest Columnist | Our nation will hold an election this November, as it has always done, without regard of war or peace, prosperity or uncertainty. The Covid-19 pandemic will present a unique set of challenges, but as much as possible, the election will be conducted as normally as possible. As Chairman of the Jackson County Board of Elections, I would like to share some specifics of what you should expect when voting this year.

There are three popular methods for casting your ballot: absentee by mail, one-stop early voting, and Election Day voting. 

To vote absentee by mail, you must request an absentee ballot using an official form readily available from many sources, including the local board of elections (BoE) and the state board at ncsbe.gov. Return your request form to the county BoE. Your request will be processed and a ballot will be mailed to you (beginning early-September). After you receive your ballot, mark it in the presence of a witness and seal it in the provided envelope. You may mail or hand-deliver your ballot to the county BoE. The last day to request an absentee ballot is October 27 and be sure to return your absentee ballot by election day, November 3. Your returned ballot envelope will be stored securely until all ballots are opened, counted, and reported on election night.

 One-Stop Early voting is October 15-31. Jackson County will have five locations, and you may vote at the one most convenient to you. All locations will operate on the same schedule: daily on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.—7:30 p.m. The first two Saturdays will be open from 8 a.m.—6 p.m. and the final Saturday 8 a.m.—3 p.m. The five locations are the Board of Elections office, the Cashiers Rec Center, the Cullowhee Rec Center, the Qualla Community Building, and the WCU University Center. One-Stop voting is the best option for people who prefer to vote in-person but want to avoid the lines that sometimes occur on election day. Citizens who are not registered to vote can register and vote on the same day, but only during the One-Stop period. (Check your county board of elections website for information regarding your county’s voting hours and polling locations).

 Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, from 6:30 a.m.—7:30 p.m. All precincts will be open. If you vote on Election day, you must vote at your designated precinct location. There are no new locations this year, but if you’re uncertain about where to go, call the BoE. Regardless of when and how you vote, expect the staff to be well-trained and helpful. Everyone working for the board of elections wants to help you cast your vote in accordance with the law and guidelines of the state board. Expect a safe and sanitized polling site with appropriate social distancing. Expect your vote to count.

 The Jackson County Board of Elections is located in the county’s Skyland Services Complex at 876 Skyland Drive. If you prefer not to enter, there are forms and a secure drop box near the front door. The boar of elections staff members are eager to help and reachable at 828.586.7538.

(Kirk Stephens is chairman of the Jackson County Board of Elections.)

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