BAKERSVILLE — As early voting begins across the state this week, Director of the Mitchell County Board of Elections Roycene Jones wants Mitchell County residents to know what to expect when they go to cast their ballot.
“We have all sorts of the precautions we’re taking this year because of the virus,” Jones said. “From sanitation, to PPE (personal protective equipment) to changing polling locations, we’re just trying to keep people as safe as possible.”
Jones said all poll workers will be wearing PPE, buildings will be sanitized throughout the day with disinfectant, PPE will be provided to voters as needed and they will also offer curbside voting.
One major change will be the absence of “I Voted” stickers given to voters.
“Unfortunately we can’t do the ‘I Voted’ stickers this year due to safety concerns,” Jones said. “But, the pens voters will receive will say something like ‘I Voted 2020’ and they can take the pens with them.”
Other than sanitation precautions, another major change to voting in Mitchell County this year includes the changes in polling locations for the Red Hill precinct and the Grassy Creek precinct.
On Election Day (Nov. 3) Red Hill precinct residents will vote at Gouge Elementary with Bakersville precinct voters. Jones said they had to move the location because the former location, the Carl Slagle Garage Building, is too small for social distancing and has no running water or bathrooms.
Grassy Creek’s polling place has changed, as well. In the past, precinct residents have voted at Deyton Elementary on Election Day and at the Spruce Pine Town Hall for early voting.
“We had to move early voting from Town Hall, because it’s just too small for social distancing,” Jones said. “We also wanted to get out of Deyton because of poor parking situations and so when we thought of the fire department, it just made sense to move both of them there.”
Now, the polling location will be at Spruce Pine Fire Department. Jones said the location provides better parking, more room for social distancing and backup generators.
“If there happens to be a winter storm on Election Day or during early voting days and it knocks out the power, they have generators at the fire department so we could just keep it rolling without any issues,” Jones said.
With all of the precautions the county has put in place, Jones urged the nearly 11,000 registered voters of Mitchell County to go out and exercise their right to vote in the coming weeks.
“There are men and women who gave their lives for us to have the right to vote,” Jones said. “Whatever your political affiliation is, I don’t care, but knowing that somebody gave their life for you to exercise that right, you should exercise that right. And if you don’t exercise that right, as far as I’m concerned, you have no right to complain about what’s going on in our country, in our state or in our county.”
The Spruce Pine Fire Department, at 100 Fire Fighter Way in Spruce Pine, will also serve as one of the polling places for early voting. The other early voting location is the Mitchell County Board of Elections at 11 North Mitchell Ave. in Bakersville.
Jones noted any registered voter from any precinct is able to go to either early voting location and vote.