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Long lines on the first day of early voting at the Pinehurst Community Center Thursday morning. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

Moore County voters turned out in force on the first day of in-person early voting on Thursday.

Long lines filed out of the four poll sites for much of the day, with voters spaced out in the lines to keep to social distancing standards.

Lines of cars also stretched out in the parking lots with a larger than expected curbside voter turnout by voters to stay away from crowds and avoid any possible contact with the coronavirus.

The Moore County Board of Elections reported after the first day of voting on Thursday that 3,257 votes were approved in person at one of the four polling sites on Thursday. That number, added with the mail-in absentee ballots, brings Moore County’s total votes approved as of Thursday to 10,396. That is almost a third of the total votes cast by mail and early voting in 2016.

At the four one-stop voting sites, the Moore Agricultural Center reported 1,041 votes cast, the Aberdeen Recreation Center had 875 votes, Cannon Park Community Center had 785 votes and Vass Town Hall had 556 votes.

The large crowds follow the trends that Board of Elections officials were preparing for.

“Historically the first two days are always busy,” said Director Glenda Clendenin. “It was hectic but that’s the norm with so many people going out that first day to vote.”

Clendenin said she expects the crowds to calm down next week, but is unsure what to expect for weekend turnouts, especially with voting occurring on Sundays for the first time.

To keep poll workers safe as the voters come in to vote early, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the N.C. Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management provided personal protective equipment to local election boards and locations.

The NCDHHS advised in-person voters in a press release to wear a face mask and keep it on throughout the voting process, stay six feet apart from others while at the polling location and wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after voting.

“Everyone should make their voting plan, and just like going to the grocery store, take your mask and wait apart from others. I’ll be voting in person during early voting,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Voting places must have enough masks to provide one to anyone who does not have one, and if a voter has an exception for wearing a mask, election workers should try to accommodate them and should not turn voters away.

Election workers at voting locations must routinely clean and disinfect high-touch areas, such as doors, tables and chairs, especially during peak voting times, NCDHHS said. Many locations are providing single-use pens to voters.

Additionally, the NCDHHS has instructed county boards of elections to monitor the health of election workers and to immediately separate and send home election workers who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day.

Early voting runs daily until Oct. 31. Polls will be open from 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m.-3p.m. Saturdays, and 2-5 p.m. on Sundays, at the four established sites:

* Moore Agricultural Center, 707 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage;

* Aberdeen Recreation Station, 301 Lake Park Crossing in Aberdeen;

* Cannon Park Community Center, 210 Rattlesnake Trail in Pinehurst; and

* Vass Town Hall, 140 S. Alma St. in Vass.

Along with in-person early voting, voters still may request an absentee mail-in ballot up until Oct. 27. The deadline to submit absentee by-mail ballots is Tuesday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

Voters can submit a request online at https://votebymail.ncsbe.gov/app/home.

There have been 7,139 mail-in ballots approved as of Thursday. There are 5,683 ballots still yet to be returned.

The Moore County Board of Elections office is located at 700 Pinehurst Ave. in Carthage. Local elections office staff may be reached by phone at (910) 947-3868 or email at elections@moorecountync.gov.

The State Elections Board also operates a dedicated webpage at NCSBE.gov/Coronavirus, where voters can find up-to-date information about elections during the pandemic.

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.

(1) comment

Patricia Bryan

We plan to vote on November 3. I mailed a friend a first class letter from here to Brunswick, Maryland, on October 7 - she received it today, October 16. I don't think it is that the USPS has slowed down, other than it is bogged down with catalogs and tons of other junk mail, especially campaign stuff. Out of the mail we received today there was one piece of first class mail, four catalogs (after all, it appears "Black Friday" is every Friday from now until December 25), and 13 other pieces of junk mail. It filled a large part of next week's paper recycling. Small postcard type cards that are important can get stuck in with all the junk - we had to take an eye appointment reminder card over to our neighbor because we got it instead of her.

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