By Nathan Ham
With some provisional ballots and absentee mail-in ballots still to be counted, voters in Watauga County wanted their voices to be heard in 2020. This lead to a record turnout for the county, according to Matt Snyder, the Executive Director of the Watauga County Board of Elections.
“We were very pleased with our voter turnout. It was a 71 percent voter turnout for us,” said Snyder. “We have 260 provisional ballots that the board will determine eligibility for on November 12 and I would expect over 100 absentee by mail ballots to come in that are still eligible that were postmarked by Election Day and received by November 12.”
Snyder pointed out that with the number of people that move in and out of the county, particularly students and seasonal residents, it can be hard to get an accurate percentage on total voter turnout, but he says that regardless of that, this year’s turnout was remarkable.
In 2016, a total of 30,241 out of 46,288 registered voters (65 percent) turned out to cast their ballots. During the mid-term elections in 2018, voting totals normally drop off a bit and Watauga was no exception. 24,739 out of a total o 47,614 registered voters (52 percent) cast their ballots. This year, Watauga set a record with 32,003 total voters and a turnout of 71 percent (32,003 out of 45,164 registered voters). With an ongoing pandemic across the nation, those numbers are made to look even more impressive.
“We are excited that everybody not only came out to vote but also felt safe enough during the pandemic to come out and vote. I think that speaks volumes for all of our election officials and the care they took to make sure that our sites were as clean and safe as possible giving confidence to voters to continue to come out in record numbers,” said Snyder. “That was one of our key goals this year to make sure that we set the table so that voters felt comfortable coming out and voting in whatever way, shape, or form that they chose and they took advantage of that and we are very pleased that it all worked out and we had such a number of people come out and vote.”
Snyder was proud of all the citizens and community members that voted, stepped up to work at polling places, and helped operate the one-stop voting locations.
“The real winner in all of this was Watauga County. Regardless of which candidate you were pulling for, by having that number of people come out, I think the winner of all of this were the citizens of Watauga County, whether they were election officials or voters. It was a very successful election for everyone,” Snyder said. “Thanks to a lot of partners in the community that helped us pull this off, whether that was the board of education and the employees of the board of education, the departments within the county administration and the attention and care that EMS and Emergency Management officials had keeping an eye on weather conditions or other issues that they were monitoring. We had a lot of different people help us out and we are very grateful for their participation and making this a success.”