Record numbers of Mecklenburg County voters are expected to vote by absentee ballot during the 2020 general election because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to local election officials, voters requested 153,385 absentee ballots at the end of September, five times the amount requested for the 2016 election.
But with more than 770,000 registered voters in the county, that leaves hundreds of thousands of residents eligible to vote in person.
Mecklenburg County Board of Elections workers and volunteers are being trained both in person and virtually in preparation for early voting, which begins Oct. 15. Because of safety concerns over Covid-19, you’ll notice some changes at your polling place.
QCity Metro spoke with Kristin Mavromatis, public information officer for the county board of elections, about the precautions being put in place to protect election workers, volunteers and voters. Here’s an overview of some of the changes you can expect to see beginning Oct. 15:
- Face shields, masks and gloves will be provided to site coordinators and poll workers. Site coordinators and poll workers are required to wear a face mask but not required to wear the shields or gloves.
- Plexiglass sneeze guards will be at check-in stations, and machines will have a privacy screen.
- Voters will be given their own pen to use. There will be no sharing of pens. The pen is replacing the “I voted” stickers as a thank you gift for voting.
- Masks are strongly encouraged and will be provided if requested by a voter. Poll workers are not allowed to turn away voters because they choose not to wear a mask.
- Lines may look longer than in the past, but that’s partly because people will be asked to stay six feet apart. There will be decals on the ground to help people know where they should stand. Board of election workers also will be on location to assist with distancing and proper line etiquette.
- There will be hand sanitizer provided. However, look for it after you’ve turned in your ballot. Mavromatis said hand sanitizer is purposefully being provided after people vote because it can smear ink and damage the ballot.
Because of the expected turnout and safety protocols needed, the county has added new early voting sites, including Spectrum Center and Bank of America Stadium. The total number of early voting sites is now 33, up from 22 during the general election four years ago.
Mavromatis said that the larger sites were chosen because they offer more sheltered space for people waiting in lines. She said the same personal protective equipment and safety protocols are being provided to or implemented at every polling site.
News of logistical changes came out two weeks before the start of early voting, complicating things. For example, Anheuser-Busch previously announced it would produce and donate more than eight million ounces of hand sanitizer to polling locations across the nation for the general election. However, the board of elections was told that Anheuser-Busch may not be able to follow through.
Mavromatis said if that happens, the state and county have back-up plans for ensuring sanitizer is delivered to polling sites.
“We have a Plan B, a Plan C, and a Plan D,” she said.
Early voting days/times
Early voting starts Thursday, Oct. 15, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 31.
All 33 sites will be open:
- Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
Early voting locations
Cornelius Town Hall – 21445 Catawba Ave., Cornelius
Hough High School – 12420 Bailey Rd., Cornelius
North County Library – 16500 Holly Crest Ln., Huntersville
North Mecklenburg High School – 11201 Old Statesville Rd., Huntersville
Butler High School – 1810 Matthews-Mint Hill Rd., Matthews
Matthews Elementary School – 200 E. McDowell St., Matthews
Spectrum Center – 333 E. Trade St., Charlotte
Bank of America Stadium – 800 S. Mint St., Charlotte
Garinger High School – 1100 Eastway Dr., Charlotte
Bojangles Entertainment Complex – 2700 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte
Bette Rae Thomas Rec Center – 2921 Tuckaseegee Rd., Charlotte
West Boulevard Library – 2157 West Blvd., Charlotte
Renaissance West STEAM Academy – 3241 New Renaissance Way, Charlotte
Myers Park High School – 2400 Colony Rd., Charlotte
Queens Sports Complex at Marion Diehl Park – 2229 Tyvola Rd., Charlotte
South Mecklenburg High School – 8900 Park Rd., Charlotte
Former Wells Fargo (SouthPark Area) – 4525 Sharon Rd., Charlotte
East Mecklenburg High School – 6800 Monroe Rd., Charlotte
Mountain Island Lake Library – 4420 Hoyt Galvin Way, Charlotte
Hickory Grove Elementary School – 6300 Highland Ave., Charlotte
Allegra Westbrooks/Beatties Ford Library – 2412 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte
West Charlotte High School – 2219 Senior Dr., Charlotte
Hornets Nest Park – 6301 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte
Carmel Commons Shopping Center – 7601 Pineville-Matthews Rd. Charlotte
Independence High School – 1967 Patriot Dr., Charlotte
UNC Charlotte Belk Gymnasium – 8911 University Rd., Charlotte
Old Pier One (University Area) – 8802 JW Clay Blvd., Charlotte
Mallard Creek High School – 3825 Johnston Oehler Rd., Charlotte
Providence High School – 1800 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Charlotte
Southwest Middle School – 13624 Steele Creek Rd., Charlotte
Olympic High School – 4301 Sandy Porter Rd., Charlotte
Community House Middle School – 9500 Community House Rd., Charlotte
Ardrey Kell High School – 10220 Ardrey Kell Rd., Charlotte
For more voting information, visit the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website.
Kerry Singe is an award-winning journalist who spent more than a decade at The Charlotte Observer. She has worked with NBC News Channel, freelanced for WFAE and contributes to a variety of print and online publications.