local elections matter 2020

By Dave Russell

The finish line is in sight for the long, strange trip that Election 2020 has been. Decisions made in the next few weeks will shape Jackson County, the state and the nation for years to come as voters cast ballots on all levels.

Voters can cast ballots three ways – absentee, one-stop (early voting) and on Election Day, Nov. 3.

One-stop voting begins today (Thursday) and runs through Oct. 31. Eligible voters can register and vote in person at one-stop sites during that period. Same-day registrants will need to attest to their eligibility and provide proof of residence.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many voters are turning to distancing options for voting.

Any North Carolina registered voter may request, receive and vote a mail-in absentee ballot. No special circumstance or reason is needed to vote by mail in North Carolina.

Registered voters may request a ballot through the online Absentee Ballot Request Portal, or fill out a North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Form and return it to their county board of elections. To track a ballot through the mail see the state’s new BallotTrax portal.

All of these tools can be found at www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail.

Request forms for absentee ballots are also located outside the Board of Elections office on Skyland Drive. They may be filled out and placed in the drop box. Completed applications may be submitted either by mail, email, fax or in person.

Absentee ballot requests must be made by Oct. 27. The voted ballot must be returned to the office by Election Day, Nov. 3, or postmarked Nov. 3 and in the office by Nov. 6.

Official ballots can only be returned by mail or dropped off by the voter or a near relative during early voting at the Board of Elections Office.

Existing customers on the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles can choose online voter registration.

The Jackson County Board of Elections is holding meetings to review absentee ballots. The public can join the meetings via the Zoom online platform by going to https://zoom.us/j/99345758563?pwd=d2g2RmlXZ094UnY4MzRJcWt5NFoydz09. The meeting ID is 993 4575 8563 and the passcode is 691692. Meeting dates are 1 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27.

Jackson County voters have requested 3,600 absentee ballots so far this election season, Board of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl said.

Of those, 1,425 have been returned.

The numbers mark a significant increase from 2016 numbers, when there were 553 returned absentee ballots, 116 not returned absentee ballots and 35 returned with issues that were not counted, Lovedahl said.

At the start of this week, 1,321,515 North Carolinians had requested absentee ballots. More than 492,825 ballots had been returned.

To be eligible to vote in Jackson County you must be a U.S. citizen; must have resided here at least 30 days before the election date; be at least 18 year of age or turn that age by the date of the election; and not be serving a felony conviction, which includes probation, post-release supervision or parole.