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Early voting brings large turnout first day in Roanoke Valley

North Carolina’s early voting kicked off Thursday, where election staff said the turnout was higher than expected.

On Friday, Elections Director Spinosa Clements of the Northampton County Board of Elections, said Thursday was a busy day. Without a full count of Thursday’s ballots cast yet, Clements said she is confident that the number is nearly a thousand across the four one-stop voting centers.

“If we didn’t hit a thousand yesterday, we got close to it because, based on my math of what the precincts ended with last night — I did a quick add, and it was over 900,” she said. “But I didn’t have a calculator beside me when I was doing it.”

Election Communications Specialist Noah Grant, with the NC State Board of Elections said on Friday, Northampton County received a total of 981 ballots cast on the first day of early voting on Thursday.

According to the state Board of Elections website, the state has 7,292,471 registered voters, 362,328 One-Stop Early Voting ballots cast, 1,350,599 absentee ballots requested and 556,367 absentee ballots were cast as of 5 a.m. on Friday.

According to an NCSBOE press release on Thursday, nearly 230,000 ballots were cast across the state during the start of the early voting process, which surpassed the nearly 166,000 total for the first day of early voting in 2016 statewide.

One voting site, Cool Spring Community Center in Northampton County, ran out of ballots for a short period, Clements said.

“I figured starting off with 300 ballots at each site would be enough, but it wasn’t — it was nowhere near,” she said. “I’ll put it to you this way, during the primary, it was in the 2,700 range. If you think about it, we did at least half or almost half of what we did in March in one day.”

Over in Halifax County, Board of Elections Director Kristin Scott said the early voting turnout went well on Thursday. Scott said she pulled the voter check-in report and saw 2,373 people voted on Thursday, compared to 816, who voted four years ago on the first day of early voting.

“In Halifax County, my Roanoke Rapids and Halifax sites saw the most voters,” she said. “They will continue to be my busiest sites throughout the early voting period.”

Grant said the number of ballots cast on Thursday across the state might have set a record compared to the first day of early voting in 2016.

“Compared to 2016, the turnout is high,” he said. “Of course, voter turnout is higher during presidential election years, and 2020 is no different. This is one of, if not the most publicized elections of our lifetime, and all eyes are on the election. Voters are eager to cast a ballot, whether by mail or in person.”

With this election, Grant said the increased voter turnout, along with social distancing precautions, have led to longer lines.

“It’s not unusual for the first couple and last couple days of the early voting period to be busier than others, particularly in a presidential election year,” he said. “Lines are a sign of high turnout, which is a great thing.”

Back on the Northampton side, Clements is asking precinct officials and voters to be more patient while social distancing and sanitation are conducted.

“They are sanitizing in between each voter, and they’re not reusing pens,” she said. “Each voter gets their own pen. For voters who are voting curbside, they get their own individual privacy sleeves, and once a voter uses them, we discard them. So, be patient because we are practicing the six-foot social distancing, which makes it look like there is a long line when, in reality, the lines are not as long as it appears.”

Additionally, Clements addressed a frequent question from voters who requested absentee ballots and decided to cast their votes in person.

“Whether it be during one-stop or on election day, as long as they have not returned a voted ballot to our office they are able to do so,” she said. “I know that’s a question that we get quite often.”

Over in Halifax County, Scott said voters are encouraged to come out during the early-voting period and are encouraged to wear masks when entering the sites but are not mandated.

“Voters should expect to wait longer in lines due to social distancing, understanding that some voters may not practice social distancing,” she said. “Precinct officials are cleaning voting booths once a voter leaves. Anytime a voter has a question or concern, they should go to one of the check-in stations and ask to speak with the person in charge of that site. Again, the Roanoke Rapids and Halifax sites will have longer lines, but voters are always encouraged to go to one of the other two sites to cast their vote.”

According to an NCSBOE press release on Thursday, the board corrected a false narrative circulating social media posts suggesting that election workers writing on a voters ballot renders it invalid. Instead, election workers write a special number assigned to each absentee and one-stop ballot as required by law. This allows the ballot to be retrieved based on a voter challenge or in the event of a successful election protest.

Ballots on Election Day are not retrievable and will not have a writing mark unless it is a provisional ballot that is marked with a “P,” according to the press release. Additionally, some counties will have the voter’s precinct written on the ballot so that absentee and one-stop voting ballots can be sorted into proper precincts after the election for reporting and data purposes, as required by law.

Scott said Halifax County is one of the counties that will have to write the voters precinct along with the voters identifying numbers during early voting.

“The reason we are required to write the precinct name is because we do not order ballots by precinct,” she said. “If for any reason, a precinct official writes an identifying number on a ballot on Election Day, the voter should request to have a new ballot because those ballots are not retrievable. If that occurs, it is because a precinct official at that location worked during the early voting period, and it became a habit.”

Scott said voters should not leave if a precinct begins experiencing technical difficulties while trying to check in to vote.

“If you cannot wait and have to leave, please make sure that you come back to vote,” she said.

To prevent misinformation, Grant encourages voters to use trusted sources of information such as the state or county boards of elections.

“This will help cut down on the amount of misinformation surrounding elections,” he said.

For accurate election information, Grant said voters can visit NCSBE.gov.

“Our website answers many FAQs, and has press releases that often serve to combat these myths or misinformation,” he said. “One thing to note is that voters who requested a ballot by mail may still vote in person, as long as they did not complete and return the ballot and envelope. If they choose to vote in person, they may discard the mail-in ballot.”

For more information on one-stop voting in Northampton County, call the Board of Elections at 252-534-5681; and for Halifax County, call 252-583-4391.

Halifax County one-stop voting sites and times are available at bit.ly/3lY71j5.

Northampton County, one-stop voting sites and times are available at bit.ly/3lUuDoO.

One-stop voting runs until Oct. 31.

The season is here: State animal-vehicle crashes increase

According to the latest annual NCDOT Report, animal-vehicle crashes are on the rise.

The report shows an increase of more than 2,300 crashes in 2019 when compared to the 2018 statewide total, with the overall figure reaching 20,331 crashes. The reports contains a link to the NCDOT Transportation Mobility and Safety Division study, available at bit.ly/3j6hW8A. The data shows that about 90% of all reported animal related crashes involve deer.

Falyn Owens, Extension Wildlife biologist at N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, also stated the biggest driver of animal wildlife vehicle collisions during these months is collision with deer.

“Those are more likely to be reported because they tend to cause more damage and be more dangerous and more costly,” she said.

In the statewide animal crash county rankings, with one being the highest, Northampton County is ranked 63, with the following breakdown.

• 2017: 116 crashes: rank 60

• 2018: 106 crashes: rank 61

• 2019: 105 crashes: rank 66.

The 327 total crashes resulted in 0 fatalities, four “B” injuries and five “C” injuries, with damages totaling $852,200.

The “KABCO” injury scale, developed by the National Safety Council, shows a “B” injury as non-incapacitating and a “C” injury as possible injury.

The costs are based on what the law enforcement officer puts in the crash report as an estimate of property damage, primarily being the vehicle, according to Steve Abbott, DOT assistant director of communications. The costs would be the responsibility of the vehicle owner, which would be his or her insurance company if they decide to file a claim.

New data shows U.S. drivers on the average have a 1 in 116 chance of a collision with an animal, according to the State Farm annual study. The company estimates more than 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims in the U.S. between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019.

In the statewide animal crash county rankings, Halifax County is ranked 43 with the following breakdown:

• 2017: 162 crashes: rank 42

• 2018: 145 crashes: rank 47

• 2019: 219 crashes: rank 35

The 526 total crashes resulted in 0 fatalities, five “B” injuries and 20 “C” injuries with damages totaling $1,675,160.

For the 17th year in a row, Wake County leads the rest of the state for animal collisions with 1,023 in 2019 — an increase of 245 from the previous year and its highest total since 2013. Over the past three years, those crashes killed one person, injured 137 and caused $7.3M in damages, according to the press release.

Guilford County is a distant second in the 2019 numbers at 649 crashes, followed by Pitt County at 605, Randolph County at 536 and Union County at 531. Far western counties have the lowest numbers because they have the fewest drivers and roads, the press release reads. Graham County recorded five animal collisions and has the bottom spot for the fifth year in a row. Others at the bottom include Swain, Yancey, Alleghany and Mitchell counties.

The increase can in part be attributed to the growth the state continues to have, with more drivers on the road and more development, the DOT reports. In addition, North Carolina is entering the three worst months for such crashes, with October, November and December accounting for half of the annual total over the past three years.

Owens said during those months, the deer are going through their rut, the mating season, and both male and female deer are experiencing a lot of hormonal changes. According to research, a white-tail doe may be in estrus for up to 72 hours, and may come into estrus up to seven times if she does not mate. When the females are in estrus, males try to find the females.

“The deer are very distracted during those months, their behavior gets very disruptive because of hormones and paying less attention to what is going on around them,” Owens said. “Compare them to teens — becoming very interested in the people they are attracted to tends to take over their behavior and thoughts. They are not paying attention to being cautious, and are very focused on what they are doing, which for the most part is females being chased by bucks. The result of that is it is much more likely for a deer to be in the middle of the road without paying attention to traffic in the road.”

The report also shows the most common times for crashes, 9% at 6 a.m., and 8.8% at 8 p.m., with 6, 7, and 9 p.m. close runners-up.

Owens said the times are based on deer behavior, normally at dawn and dusk, as the numbers indicate. She said to avoid a crash, drive slowly and be very cognizant, especially in areas where a lot of forest deer are more likely to cross.

“If there are collisions in the past, the DOT puts up signs — pay extra attention to the signs and be extra cautious,” she said.

Statefarm.com also shares some tips to avoid animals in the road:

• Stay alert. Pay attention to “deer crossing” and “wildlife crossing” signs and be cautious in areas near woods or water.

• Use high beams. Flicking your high beams on an animal in the road may cause the animal to scurry away. High beams also help illuminate dark roads.

• Don’t swerve. If a car crash is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road.

Owens also added a tip about this.

“It is useful to know — theoretically the data very clearly shows that most of the damages caused by these collisions where the car hits something and people are hurt,” she said. “That usually happens when someone swerves versus hitting the deer. You are more likely to survive a collision with a deer if you stay the course — hit the animal — than swerving to avoid the deer. If possible, for a driver to try to avoid that instinct of swerving and just hit the brakes and stay in their lane, they are more likely if they do hit something, to come out of it in a better state.”

• Brake as necessary. If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn, and tap your brakes to warn other drivers. If there are no drivers behind you, brake hard.

• Remember peak season. Animal collisions happen most during October through December, which is hunting and mating season.

• Remember meal time. Watch for animals in the road between dusk and dawn.

• Watch for herds. If you see one deer, there are probably more nearby.

• Don’t use a whistle. No scientific evidence supports that car-mounted deer whistles work.

• Wear seat belts. Always obey speed limits and wear seat belts.

NCDOT adds, “If your vehicle does strike a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can be dangerous or further injure itself. Get your vehicle off the road if possible and call 911.”

No-go: Fall sports nixed in Jaguar Country

GASTON — Northampton County, recognized by many in prep football circles as a pillar of the 1A East, will not conduct a fall sports calendar.

So goes 2020, yet again.

The determination, cast earlier this week by school board officials following a full-stop review of academic re-entry amidst the COVID-19 crisis, was communicated to the Herald on Thursday by NHC athletic director George Privott.

“Basically, we’re going to stay remote (with respect to classroom learning), and also, while we’re remote, we won’t be participating in sports — conditioning or active sports,” Privott said. “Just to be on the safe side … I totally understand. I want everyone to be safe.”

Spanning the calendar

Positioned uniquely at the center of this scenario is the school’s basketball docket — which will not begin on Dec. 7, as planned — but could, given positive shift in virus-related news, pick up after the Christmas holiday.

Emphasis on could, naturally, and with much planning to be considered.

“I’m hoping — and that’s what I told them (the board) — I’m hoping that it’s revisited early enough so that we can have basketball,” Privott said of the season.

Alas, more questions to linger on the vine of 2020 — one wilted, but with reach, it seems, for the New Year.

NCHSAA news, notes

Privott’s reveal coincided with this week’s revisions to the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 2020-2021 Modified Sports Manual, which addressed health and safety guidelines, football and lacrosse equipment, modifications to cross country, swimming, diving and volleyball, as well as calendar and basic skill development for all other sports.

Interested parties can also peruse regulations for spectatorship, drafted in step with Gov. Roy Cooper’s Oct. 1 statewide issuance.

A full breakout of the amendments can be accessed online at nchsaa.org.

Remixed in navy-and-teal

As has been the case with most prep athletic programs across the nation, the COVID-19 clutch has issued due pause to a surging Jaguar battery, which competed for a state football crown last December and has been substantive across its winter and spring seasons in recent years.

It’s a time, really, of unprecedented change and challenge for Privott, who is mixing new technology with old tropes to lead his football team.

“I’ve been communicating with my guys on Hudl,” the coach said of the digital giant, which helps athletes across the country facilitate the entire prep experience through video analysis, chat and more. “Encouraging them to stay in shape as best they can, stay out of trouble … that’s what I’m encouraging them to do.”