Electioneering Complaints, But No Voter Intimidation At Early Voting Sites Around Charlotte
Robert Price did something Tuesday morning that he hadn’t done before. He voted early.
One week before Election Day, Price went to vote at the early voting site at Mountain Island Library in Charlotte. From his perspective, the 2020 election season is different.
“I think on the 3rd, (Election Day) it’s going to be really crowded," Price said. "I think it’s a divisive time and everybody is engaged to vote. I had been checking the lines here, and this morning it was nice and quick."
Asked why he thinks this election is divisive, Price said, “I think a lot of people are very engaged in this election for various reasons for the benefit of the country, and where we are currently.”
Law enforcement leaders say they’re worried that, as Election Day draws near, demonstrators may take to the streets to vocalize their support for candidates, and according to a CNN report, federal agents and local police departments are preparing in the event there are large-scale protests.
So how is early voting going? Are election workers encountering any problems? Are voters complaining?
Short answer: a little, but not about voter intimidation.
WFAE checked in with election directors in 12 counties: Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cleveland, Lincoln, Catawba, Alexander, Iredell, Rowan, Cabarrus, Stanly, Anson and Union.
All but the directors in Cleveland and Lincoln counties responded.
In the other 10 counties, election officials say, so far, they haven’t received any major complaints from voters or seen any voter intimidation at polling sites.
“Everything else seems to be pretty good,” said Michael Dickerson, director of elections in Mecklenburg County. “Nothing major. Nothing we don’t usually get every year — especially at this time.”
Dickerson says the most common issue that voters raise is campaign staff getting too close, infringing on the 50-foot buffer put in place to protect voters who are about to step inside buildings and cast their ballots.
Other counties report similar problems with campaign workers and volunteers. Brett Vines, the communications officer for Union County Board of Elections, says some voters have complained about “overaggressiveness” by some campaign representatives
Sherry Melton, the elections director in Anson County, says her office has received some incident reports stemming from individuals going back and forth.
“Yelling across the buffer zone,” Melton said. “I guess they have issues with how the procedure is as far as assisting voters.”
In Cabarrus County, elections director Carol Soles says the voting process is going much smoother than expected, at least so far.
“Actually it’s interesting,” she said. “I have received more compliments than complaints this time. I think people are so fearful and when they go and vote, they see the preparation that we have done with personal protection equipment and social distancing and they feel more comfortable. We have had minimal complaints and none widespread or a single issue at multiple sites.”
The way election workers tell it, people have been respectful of social distancing and wearing face coverings.
Voters have appreciated the health safety precautions at Gaston County early voting precincts, says spokesperson Adam Gaub. He says there are plastic shields between voters and poll workers, and all voting stations are sanitized after each use. He says social distancing is also enforced.
“No major complaints. We always have complaints from voters related to campaigners at the polling place but no major procedural complaints,” Gaub said. “For the most part, voters have been fairly content with the safeguards we've put into place and are generally happy with our process.”
Kimberly Blackwelder, director of elections in Stanly County, says election workers in that county are required to wear masks unless they have a medical exemption or they’re not within six feet of another person. The county provides face shields and installed desktop shields.
Voters WFAE spoke with say they haven’t encountered any problems.
In Charlotte, Crystal Brown made two trips to early vote. Because of an injury, her foot is in a boot, and she uses a crutch to help her walk. She didn’t want to stand in line too long to vote.
“I came yesterday and it was all around the building so I decided to come back this morning and make it easier for myself,” she said.
Tell us about your voting experience. Did it go smoothly? Were there any problems? How were the lines? Did you feel safe? If so, why or why not?