BOONE — Election Day is less than seven weeks away, but many voters won’t wait until Nov. 3 to cast their ballots in the 2020 general election.

Watauga County voters will make selections for U.S. president, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, N.C. governor, N.C. Senate, N.C. House, N.C. Supreme Court, N.C. Court of Appeals, district court judges, Watauga County Board of Commissioners, Watauga County register of deeds, Watauga County Board of Education, Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor and several Council of State positions.

Register to vote

The last day to register to vote in Watauga County is Friday, Oct. 9.

To be eligible to vote in the 2020 election, you must be: a citizen of the United States; at least 18 years old; have resided in North Carolina and in the precinct in which you present to vote for at least 30 days prior to the election; you must not be currently serving a felony sentence; and if previously convicted of a felony, you must have fully completed your sentence.

Voters are not currently required to provide photo ID to vote in North Carolina. Federal and state courts have temporarily blocked North Carolina’s voter photo ID requirement from taking effect until further order of the courts.

In North Carolina, there are two primary methods available to apply for voter registration.

Residents can fill out the North Carolina Voter Registration Application, available at ncsbe.gov/registering/how-register or at a county board of elections office. The application must be mailed or submitted to the local elections office.

Residents may also register to vote using N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles services by selecting the option to register to vote while applying for a vehicle license or ID or by submitting the voter registration application online through the DMV at https://tinyurl.com/ya9c5oej.

Residents can register to vote or update their registration during the early-voting period. Same-day registration is not available on Election Day.

Same-day registrants must attest to their eligibility and provide proof of where they live. A voter attests to their eligibility by completing and signing a North Carolina Voter Registration Application. The voter must prove their residence by showing any of the following documents with their current name and address: a North Carolina driver’s license; other photo identification issued by a government agency that includes the voter’s current name and address; a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document showing the voter’s name and address; or a current college/university photo identification card paired with proof of campus habitation.

Mail-in absentee ballots

Voters who do not wish or who are not able to vote at early-voting sites or on Election Day may request an absentee ballot. Due to COVID-19 concerns, a significant increase in absentee ballot voting is anticipated in 2020.

Voters must fill out an application requesting an absentee ballot. The 2020 State Absentee Ballot Request Form is available for download at NCSBE.gov, or you can pick one up at your county board of elections office. The request form comes with detailed instructions and is available in Spanish.

Return the completed form to your county board of elections by fax, email, mail or in person. In addition, a new Absentee Ballot Request Portal at NCSBE.gov allows voters to submit their absentee ballot requests online.

County boards of election began mailing absentee ballots on Sept. 4. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. However, elections officials strongly encourage voters to request a ballot before then to ensure absentee ballot return deadlines can be met.

If a registered voter has already requested a ballot but has not received it by Sept. 15-20, they are advised to contact their county board of elections office.

Completed absentee ballots can be returned by mail, dropped off at a county board of elections office or dropped off at an early-voting site.

North Carolina voters who vote by mail can track the status of their absentee ballot with a new online service called BallotTrax, available via NCSBE.gov and at https://northcarolina.ballottrax.net/voter.

By-mail voters who do not use BallotTrax may also determine the status of their ballot by using the State Board’s Voter Search Tool, which will display when the ballot is accepted by the county board of elections; or by contacting their county board of elections to ask about the status of a ballot.

Early voting

Watauga County citizens may vote at any of six sites during the early-voting period, which begins Thursday, Oct. 15, and continues through Saturday, Oct. 31.

Watauga’s early-voting sites include the Commissioners Board Room in the Watauga County Administration Building in Boone; the Blue Ridge Ballroom in Appalachian State University’s Plemmons Student Union; Blowing Rock Town Hall; Deep Gap Fire Department; High Country Vacation Homes in Foscoe; and the Western Watauga Community Center in Sugar Grove.

The hours for all sites are from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on all weekdays during the early-voting period; from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24; and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31.

Election DayPolls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Some residents of Watauga County’s 20 voting precincts could have a different Election Day polling site than in years past. That’s because county elections office have sought out larger venues for polling sites to provide more space for physical distancing amid COVID-19 concerns. In some cases, voters from more than one precinct will vote at the same polling site.

A list of Election Day polling sites is included with this article.

The Watauga Democrat will provide information from local candidates and additional election coverage between now and Election Day. To read all of the newspaper’s election coverage, visit WataugaDemocrat.com/election.

For more information about voting in Watauga County, contact the Watauga County Board of Elections office at 828-265-8061 or email Elections Director Matthew Snyder at Matthew.Snyder@watgov.org. The elections office is located on the first floor of the Watauga County Courthouse, at 842 W. King St., Suite 6, Boone, NC 28607. Its website is WataugaCounty.org/App_Pages/Dept/BOE/home.aspx.

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