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Low Early Voting Turnout Numbers So Far for Watauga County Municipal Elections

By Nathan Ham

A total of 324 people have voted so far during the early voting period for Watauga County Municipal Elections, according to Matthew Snyder, Watauga County’s Director of Elections. 

Two years ago, there were about 900 voters that cast their ballots during the early voting period for town elections. 

“It has been a bit of a slow start but we’d love to see more people come out and vote,” Snyder said. 

Watauga County has two early voting sites, one at the administration building and the other at the student union on Appalachian State’s campus. This year, unlike in years past, those voting totals are nearly identical. Snyder said that historically, voting totals are typically twice as more at the on-campus location as there is at the administration building. 

In the last municipal election period, just 1,394 votes were counted, roughly 10 percent of the registered voters that could vote in town elections according to Snyder. 

“We focus a lot on national elections, especially presidential elections, but really the elections that impact voters the most are their local elections,” Snyder said. “As we have all seen the last few years there has been a lot of change in the High Country with a lot of people moving up here. We have a lot of challenges moving forward on how to deal with that, whether it’s from a traffic basis or an infrastructure basis. The folks that you elect locally are the ones that make those decisions.”

Snyder feels like this is one of the more important elections that the county has had in a long time because of these changes in the High Country and a lot of issues facing these town councils that they will have to address. It will be a whole new town council in Boone with two appointed council members and seven others seeking to be voted in.

“These are some hard decisions that they are going to have to make moving forward. We are very blessed to have some good candidates that are engaged and care about what happens in their local municipalities,” Snyder said. 

Boone Town Manager John Ward echoed the importance of local elections for the residents and the policy choices that are made by those that are put into office. 

“While everybody feels that impact and has an opinion about things, the most direct way to exercise any influence over how those policies are set is to participate in local elections,” Ward said. “Local property taxes combined with your water and sewer bill is a pretty big operating cost for most households. I think when you combine those and how those three funding sources directly tie to local policy decisions that impact how that money is spent, it has a much greater and direct impact than a lot of the things you hear about out of Washington that may or may not trickle down to this level. It’s always surprising that the participation levels aren’t higher.”

Early voting will continue through Saturday, October 30, at two locations: Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners Board Room, 814 W. King Street, Boone, 28607, and at the Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union, Blue Ridge Ballroom, 263 Locust Street, Boone, 28608.

Early voting hours for this week at the administration building will be from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday. Early voting hours for this week at the student union will be from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday. 

All Election Day sites will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

“We are making our polling places as safe as possible with COVID protocols. Voters are asked to wear a mask but they are not required to wear a mask. We will have hand sanitizer there, we are trying to keep our voters safe and our staff safe,” Snyder said. 

Tuesday (October 26) is the final day to request an absentee ballot for the election. All absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day (November 2). 

Early Voting Totals by Town (through October 25)

Boone: 146 votes at the Administration Building, 195 votes at Plemmons Student Union

Blowing Rock: 29 votes at the Administration Building, 1 vote at Plemmons Student Union

Beech Mountain: 3 votes at the Administration Building

Seven Devils: No early votes

Meet the Candidates for the Boone Town Council