Many Schools Will Be Early Voting Sites But Most Won't Have Students
Mecklenburg County voters will be getting into schools before most students do when in-person early voting begins this month. Eighteen of the 33 early voting sites that will open Oct. 15 are public schools.
County election director Michael Dickerson says school gymnasiums allow voters and poll workers to keep at safe distances. And he says schools provide convenient locations around the county at a time when many voters are working from home.
The fact that most Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students will still be learning from home means there’s no reason to fear that either children or voters will expose each other.
"Most of my early voting sites that are in schools are senior high schools," he says. "I’m using the Providence High School, the Ardrey Kell, the West Charlotte -- all of those schools."
CMS high school students will still be weeks away from in-person classes. In fact, the only students who will be in school during the two weeks of early voting are prekindergarteners, who report Oct. 12. Only two early voting sites – Hickory Grove Elementary and Renaissance West STEAM Academy – have pre-K students.
Dickerson says those children won’t encounter voters. After all, long before the coronavirus came on the scene, there were safety reasons for making sure crowds of adults didn’t have access to children.
"Our goal is to be away from everybody," Dickerson says. "That’s why we’ve secured the gymnasium room. We’re not going in – we have a separate entrance and a separate exit just for voters."
Union County, which has students at all grade levels reporting in person, is using three schools as early voting sites. (Find early voting sites for any North Carolina county here.) The district says state protocols for cleaning and infection control will be in place.
Several other nearby counties are not using schools for early voting, including Iredell, Gaston, Catawba, Cabarrus and Lincoln.
The number of schools used as polling places on Election Day will surge – but Dickerson says it’s traditional to keep students home during presidential election years. Most of the Charlotte-area districts are using Nov. 3 as a teacher work day.
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