Early voting in Buncombe County begins today, Oct. 20, but this being a municipal-election year, there are some twists to how it is being conducted.
The opportunity to vote on municipal officers as well as a countywide sales-tax referendum before the Nov. 8 general election date is available at Buncombe County Election Services, 35 Woodfin St., from Friday, Oct. 20, through Saturday, Nov. 5. In the city of Asheville, however, four additional community locations will open for the second week of early voting (Oct. 29 until Nov. 5).
“The deal is this,” explained Trena Parker, director of Election Services. “We don’t normally open remote sites in the community in municipal elections unless the municipality requests it.” Asheville City Council requested remote sites in 2009 for the entire early voting period, Parker said by phone, but this year the Council “looked at the amount of money — because of course, we charge them — and the number of votes, and decided they only wanted one week of early voting.” The rough cost estimate is $1,000 per day, per site, Parker added.
So four community sites will be open in Asheville from Saturday, Oct. 29, through Saturday, Nov. 5: North Asheville Branch Library, Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, South Buncombe Branch Library and West Asheville Branch Library. Monday through Friday, early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m at Election Services and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the community sites. Hours at all sites for the first Saturday, October 22, are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; for second Saturday, November 5, hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (There is no early voting on Sundays.)
Parker mentioned one lesser-known detail affecting county voters. There is a State Board of Elections requirement that any early voting sites maintain copies of all of the county’s ballots, so that voters throughout the county can participate at any early voting location. For this election year, that means voters from any town in the county may participate at any of the Asheville voting sites by requesting the ballot for their own municipality.
Unlike other towns in the county, Asheville has a charter allowing for a primary election in municiple races. City Council did not elect to open early voting sites during this year’s primary — which hit a new low for voter participation (see story).
For the general election date, Tuesday, Nov. 8, all precinct polling sites throughout the county will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The following races are being decided in the general election: Asheville City Council (six candidates; three open seats), Biltmore Forest commissioners (three candidates; three open seats) and mayor (one candidate), Black Mountain aldermen (eleven candidates; three open seats), Montreat commissioners (two candidates; two open seats), Weaverville Town Council (five candidates; three open seats), Woodfin aldermen (three candidates; three open seats) and mayor (one candidate), Woodfin Water & Sewer (four candidates; three seats). A countywide sales-tax referendum will also be on all ballots, proposed by resolution of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for the benefit of A-B Tech (see report).
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor