2020 Elections in Jackson County

Story co-written with Nicole Ellison and Nate Hadley.

Update as of 7:30 p.m.

Cullowhee Recreation Center

As the polls begin to close and political party representatives are long gone, people are waiting from their homes in anticipation in regard to who will be the next President of the United States.

The Cullowhee Rec. Center resembled a ghost town with barely anyone in sight. Regardless, voters will have to wait even longer with the North Carolina State Board of Elections extending voting at additional polling places due to interruptions. More than 17,000 votes have been cast in Jackson County so far.

The NCSBE did provide a schedule of the expected reporting of unofficial results.

  • 7:30 p.m.: polls close.
  • 7:30–8:30 p.m.: early votes are reported.
    • One-stop votes and absentee by-mail votes that have been approved by a county board of elections (CBE) are reported in the Media File and on the ER Dashboard.
    • Data refresh every 5~10 minutes.
  • 7:30–9:30 p.m.: precinct officials hand-deliver results to CBEs.
  • 8:30 p.m.–1 a.m.: precinct results are reported
  • After Election Night
    • Absentee ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the county board of elections by the return deadline, as well as provisional votes, will be added to the results as they are approved by CBEs during the canvass period after Election Night.

Update as of 5:30 p.m.

There have been about 350 votes cast at the Cullowhee Rec. Center in Jackson County on this election day. It’s nearing the end of the day, but some voters are still making their way to the polls to cast last-minute votes.

Cullowhee Rec Center with no line for the 2020 election. Photo by Nate Hadley.

There are still no lines at the polling place and no intimidation has taken place.

Roy Osborne, the chief judge for Cullowhee Rec. Center voting place, said that there have been about 3,500 votes cast at this polling place between early voting and mail-in ballots.

“My one regret of the Western Students is that so many of them did not come in and enjoy the benefits of early voting, which would have allowed them to come in and register on the same day,” said Osborne.

There were representatives from both the Democratic party and the Republican party in front of the polling place.

“It’s slower out here than expected. Word has gotten around that the board of elections is a little bit busier,” said Andrew Ferguson, representing the Caleb Wingate campaign and the republican party. “I was really expecting more of a college crowd. I would have thought there would have a little bit bigger of a push.”

Ferguson explained that he feels the races in this area will be closer than expected, and he seemed concerned that there wasn’t more of a Republican presence.

Republican volunteer booth at the 2020 election in Cullowhee, NC. Photo by Nate Hadley.

“I would say that this precinct is traditionally more left-leaning, and I would say that it probably stays that way,” said Ferguson.

Pam Kraus, a volunteer for the Democratic Party, said that things were quiet and peaceful at the Cullowhee Rec Center. She said that she felt that there had been a good even mix of voters for both parties.

Joe Sam Queen and Justin Greene at the Cullowhee Rec Center on election day. Photo by Nate Hadley.

Over early voting, the Democrats were present on campus while the Republicans were not.

“It was favorable for the Democrats, especially for new voters, if one party is able to talk to them without the other, that suggests an advantage to me,” said Kraus.

Two candidates made an appearance NC District 119 candidate Joe Sam Queen and Justin Greene, a District Court Judge candidate in the 30th Judicial District. They are both Democrats. No candidate for a different party has made an appearance.

“It’s a consequential election, and people are showing up,” said Queen. “I am hoping for the best, and I appreciate the support of students and faculty and the community here in Cullowhee. I’m standing out here today to encourage folks to vote for a strong come back and a healthier year to come.”

WCJ will continue to update throughout the night.

Update as of 11 a.m.

The Election day in Jackson county so in the morning started with a steady flow of voters. By 10 a.m. there were around 100 people who voted in the Cullowhee Rec Center in Jackson County. Around 200 have voted at the Jackson County Board of Elections, according to Katerina Spasovska, WCU professor and a poll worker.

Candidate for District Court Judge in the 30th Judicial District Justin Greene campaigning outside the Cullowhee Rec. Center on Election Day. Photo by Nicole Ellison.

There were no lines at the Rec. Center, and there have been no accounts of voter intimidation. There has been a steady turnout, which was to be expected considering half of Jackson County has already voted.

“Well, you know, when we had voting going in down the side there, there’s markings over there along the walk-out, social distancing or whatever. I never saw more than ten people standing there,” said Rick Strohm, a volunteer for the Republican Party. “But it has been steady.”

Many have taken to campaigning outside the polling location. Justin Greene, a candidate for District Court Judge in the 30th Judicial District, was there campaigning for himself. Andrew Ferguson, a close friend of his opponent, Kaleb Wingate, was also there campaigning for Wingate’s behalf.

“This is the largest precinct in Western North Carolina,” said Greene. “Cullowhee, historically, has had more voters than any other precinct.”

There were also people campaigning on the behalf of political party. Those on the Democratic side hope that this election will vote out Donald Trump and replace him with Democratic Candidate Joe Biden.

“I hope to get someone out of this election, and that is Trump,” said Dan Perlmutter, the Precinct Chair for the Cullowhee Precinct of the Democratic Party. “Four more years of [Donald Trump] would probably result in the ruination of a lot of people and destruction of a lot of hallmarks of our democracy.”

Those on the Republican side of the aisle believe that Trump was hindered by both the Coronavirus pandemic and attacks from Democrats. They claim that a second term of the Trump presidency would be a return to Reagan-era politics.

No lines or wait to vote at the Cullowhee Rec. Center. Photo by Nicole Ellison.

“I don’t need anything. I’m looking at folks like you, like the kiddos,” said Strohm. “I see Trump as bringing the tide in. He’s doing exactly what you guys need, and people won’t put up with anything less from now on.”

Most of the voters have been Jackson County residents, though there have been some students. Western Carolina Senior Julia Gross didn’t vote in 2016 due to a lack of information and interest in the candidates but wanted to vote this year on Election Day for her vote to be “as official as it can be.”

“I felt that, like, my vote didn’t matter as much [in 2016], but I kind of, like, did more research and I understand better now, so I felt like I should come out and do it,” said Gross. “I don’t want a certain someone in office again.”

Jackson County has 13 precincts open on Election Day. You can visit the North Carolina Voter Lookup and put in your own information to see which precincts and jurisdictions you belong to.

Polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Any voter in line at their assigned polling place at 7:30 p.m. will be able to vote. The busiest times tend to be early in the morning and just before the polls close.

Voters who need assistance at the polls must request that assistance. Curbside voting is available for voters who are unable to enter the voting place without assistance due to age or disability. Once inside the polling place, voters who experience difficulties should request help from an election worker.

Voters may call Jackson County Board of Election on 828-586-7538, or 828-586-4055, ext. 6035 for information on: Registration deadlines; Absentee voting; Challenges and complaints; and Precinct polling locations. You can also visit them in person in the Skyland Center.