BOONE — The 2020 election gets underway in February with the voter registration deadline on Feb. 7 and one-stop early voting for the primaries beginning Feb. 13.
“All persons who are registered to vote with the Watauga County Board of Elections may vote in this election,” the notice from the Watauga County Board of Elections said.
The 2020 North Carolina primaries are semi-closed, meaning that the state’s political parties can limit who can participate outside of their party’s own members. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, unaffiliated voters have a choice to vote in North Carolina’s Republican, Democratic or Libertarian primaries, but not for the Green or Constitutional parties, as decided by each party’s state leadership.
After the voter registration deadline, six one-stop early voting sites across Watauga County open on Thursday, Feb. 13.
The seven sites are the Watauga County Administration Building, located at 814 W. King St., Boone; the Blue Ridge Ballroom in the Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union, located at 263 Locust St., Boone; the Blowing Rock Town Hall, located at 1036 Main St., Blowing Rock; the Deep Gap Fire Department, located at 6583 Old U.S. 421 South, Deep Gap; the Meat Camp Fire Department, located at 4797 N.C. 194 North, Meat Camp; the Western Watauga Community Center, located at 1081 Old U.S. 421, Sugar Grove; and High Country Vacation Homes, located at 520 Church Road, Foscoe.
All seven sites will be open concurrently, as required by state law during presidential election years. The Watauga hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 13-14, 17-21 and 24-28, as well as 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29.
In the 2020 primaries, a previously enacted “voter ID” law will not be in effect. A state law that would have required voters to show photo identification in order to receive a ballot was blocked by a judge in late 2019. The case is currently ongoing.
“Voters who are not registered in the county by (Feb. 7) may register and vote during one-stop early voting only and will be required to provide documentation of their identity and residence,” the Watauga County Board of Elections notice states. “Voters who wish to change party affiliation or who have changed name or address must do so by the registration deadline. Voters who fail to timely make a change in name or address in the county must update the information when presenting to vote and may be required to vote a provisional ballot.”
The High Country Vacation Homes location in the Foscoe community is a new location for early voting. Watauga election board members noted in December 2019 that their decision to open the Foscoe site was driven by a high number of mail-in and absentee ballots from the area for the 2018 election.
The Constitutional, Green and Libertarian party ballots each only have one race on their ballot, for president. The Democratic and Republican primary ballots have more races on their ballots, including U.S. Senate, N.C. governor and many more.
The only local race is the Democratic primary for N.C. House District as incumbent Rep. Ray Russell of Boone is challenged by Turner Doolittle, also of Boone.
The 2020 N.C. Primary takes place on Tuesday, March 3. Polls across Watauga County will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.