NEWTON — The Catawba County Board of Elections reviewed two alternative early voting plans last week in light of a North Carolina Senate bill that would change the schedule for early voting.

Senate Bill 325 would change both the days and hours for early voting. Early voting would begin on the third Wednesday before the election and end on the last Friday before Election Day.

If the bill becomes law, the early voting period would run between Oct. 17 and Nov. 2. Currently, early voting runs from the second Thursday before the election to the final Saturday.

Early voting hours during the week would be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Early voting hours during the weekdays in Catawba County are typically 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

County board of elections have the power to set the hours on weekends, but those hours must be uniform throughout the county.

The bill passed on June 15. Catawba County Rep. Mitchell Setzer voted against the bill. Rep. Jay Adams and Sen. Andy Wells were listed as absent for the vote.

Gov. Roy Cooper had not taken action on the bill as of Friday afternoon.

Elections Director Amanda Duncan said the county board was instructed by the North Carolina Board of Elections to review alternatives so that the boards can be prepared if the bill becomes law.

If the bill were to become law, Catawba County would maintain its hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Duncan said.

The board will approve an early voting plan next month, Duncan said.

Duncan said the bill would provide more opportunities for voters, but would also create a burden for the BOE in terms of finding staff.

While it probably wouldn’t be much of an issue this year, it could be more of a challenge in 2020, Duncan said.

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Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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