Following a trend seen across the country, Wayne County is experiencing a surge in voters requesting absentee ballots.
The Wayne County Board of Elections reports, as of Friday, September 25th, voters have submitted 7,358 requests for absentee by-mail ballots for the 2020 general election, a dramatic increase over the 1,800 absentee by-mail ballots requested for the November 2016 election.
In addition, 2,051 Wayne County voters have already returned their voted absentee ballots as of Friday, September 25th, compared to a total return of 1,323 in 2016.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of requests for absentee by mail ballots and have surpassed 2016 total returns within just the first three weeks of absentee by mail voting,” said Anne Risku, Wayne County elections director. “We encourage voters to choose the method of voting which best suits their situation and preference, but also want to reassure voters that the absentee by mail option is a safe, secure voting method for this election.” Voters may choose to return their ballot through the mail or they may hand deliver it to the Board of Elections at 309 E Chestnut St. Goldsboro. An absentee ballot return station has been set up in front of the building for election officials to receive returned ballots without the voter having to stand in line to enter the BOE building. Voters are reminded that only they, their near relative, or a verifiable legal guardian may return an absentee ballot. The absentee by mail request deadline is Tuesday, October 27th.
Voters may also choose to vote during the One Stop early voting period from October 15th – 31st, including Saturday and Sunday voting hours. One Stop early voting locations will include the Maxwell Center, the Bear Creek Missionary Baptist Association, the Wayne County Public Library, the Mount Olive Train Depot and the Pikeville Harmony Lodge #340. A full early voting schedule, to include addresses and dates/times is available at www.waynevotes.com. Same day registration is available during the early voting period.
Voters may also choose to vote on Election Day at their assigned precinct. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on the number of people allowed within a polling site at any one time, voters are cautioned to expect lines both during early voting and on Election Day. “In the past we had essentially streamlined the voter check in process to the point that voters seldom had to wait in line, however COVID-19 restrictions have upended those efforts,” Risku said.
Health and safety are also concerns for the Board of Elections. “We’ve taken several steps to ensure the health and safety of in person voters during this election,” Risku said. “We’ve secured PPE for all of our election officials and voters.” While it is not a requirement for voters to wear masks within a polling place, election officials have enough readily available masks to provide for each voter. Gloves, shields, barriers and disposable ballot marking devices will also be available, as well as an ample supply of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Voters will be required to practice social distancing, both within the polling place and while waiting in line.
“While this election has provided us with unprecedented challenges,” Risku said, “we are confident in our ability to provide a safe, secure election for Wayne County voters this fall.” Voters are asked to practice patience and show respect to one another and to election officials. “We’re working hard to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their ballot in this election via their chosen voting method.”