It’s election time. Here’s what you need to know.

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The polls are open and it’s time — if you’re an early bird — to vote.

Chatham County’s 2022 primary election is May 17, but one-stop early voting, which began last Thursday, is available to voters here through May 14, the Saturday prior to election day.

Census count holdups and redistricting have caused delays and some confusion, so here’s what you need to know about this year’s primary.

Anyone who’s registered; you can check eligibility at www.ncsbe.gov/registering/who-can-register.

Voter registration for this year’s primary ended on April 22, but same-day registration and voting is offered during the early voting period — so long as you bring documentation proving you’ve lived at your current address for at least 30 days.

Wait, is this a primary, or a general election?

For voters casting ballots in Siler City’s four contested municipal races, it’s both. Those four non-partisan races — mayor, at-large commissioner, and the Dist. 1 and Dist. 5 commissioner seats — were originally scheduled for last November’s general election. Delays moved those races to this year’s primary, so they’re on the ballot; winners in those four seats will be sworn in during a June meeting.

Another primary race serving as a finality is the district attorney race for Dist. 18 for Orange and Chatham counties. Sitting DA Jim Woodall is retiring, and no Republicans filed for the seat. That means the winner of the race between Democrat challengers Kayley Taber and Jeff Nieman — both now working as assistant DAs in the office — will become the new DA and oversee an office with nine assistant district attorneys, including two in Chatham.

I’m registered as “unaffiliated.” Can I vote in this primary?

Yes.

As of March, unaffiliated voters in North Carolina — around 2.5 million of them, nearly 35% of those registered — outnumbered registered Democrats (also around 2.5 million) and registered Republicans (around 2.2 million).

You may register with any political party recognized in the state of North Carolina; party affiliation determines the primary in which a voter is eligible to vote. You may also register as unaffiliated by not declaring a party. When it comes time to vote, though, unaffiliated voters must choose which party ballot they wish to vote on — so for this election, either a Democrat or Republican ballot. (There’s one Libertarian candidate on some of this year’s local ballots — a U.S. Senate candidate.)

Regardless of how you vote in May, you can vote for anyone on the ballot during the November general election — including splitting your vote among people of different parties. But in May’s primary, you can only vote in one party’s election.

So, who’s going to be on my ballot?

It depends upon where in Chatham you live, but you can check out the ballot you’ll use at this link https://www.chathamcountync.gov/government/departments-programs-a-h/elections/2021-election-information-notices to get a preview.

This election includes federal (U.S. Senate and Congress), state (N.C. Senate, N.C. House, various judicial seats) and local races.

Contested local seats (those where a candidate is not running unopposed) include:

• Siler City Mayor

• Siler City Town Commissioner, Dist. 1

• Siler City Town Commissioner, Dist. 5

• Siler City Town Commissioner, At-Large

• Cary Town Council, At Large

• Republican primary, N.C. House Dist. 54

And finally, Democratic primaries for:

• Chatham County Commissioner, Dist. 3

• Chatham County Commissioner, Dist. 4

Local primary races where candidates are unopposed include Siler City Town Commissioner, Dist. 2 (it’s the only non-partisan seat in the list that follows, so incumbent Norma Boone will win the seat); plus uncontested Republican primaries for Chatham County Commissioner, Dist. 3 and Dist. 4; Chatham County Clerk of Court; and the Democrat and Republican primaries for Chatham County Sheriff.

Primary winners in the May 17 election will face each other in November’s general election.

Again, check the county’s board of elections website for a full list, and check the board of election’s website to see who’s on your ballot.

What about uncontested races?

Uncontested races won’t appear on the ballot, but it’s good to know who’s seeking office. You’ll see some of those names again on your November ballot.

How do I find out about the candidates?

You can find questionnaires from most candidates in contested races on the News + Record’s website (chathamnewsrecord.com), but keep in mind that some local candidates didn’t complete them.

In addition, many candidates have websites and/or Facebook and other social media pages. A good place to start is here: https://bit.ly/3w27OGm. It provides lists of candidates’ email addresses, and you can find website links there for some by checking the email extensions.

Use good judgment when perusing campaign websites and social media platforms; in the current election climate, some candidates may make exaggerated — or in some cases, downright false — claims or pledges. Most candidates have working email addresses listed on the board of election’s website, but some seeking office may be either slow to respond, or may not respond at all, to messages. In that case, try calling the candidate’s telephone number listed on the county’s website, though that may not work either. A few candidates News + Record reporters have called set up their phones to automatically reject all incoming calls.

Where can I vote early?

Since 2008, more than half of voters in N.C. have decided to cast ballots early, mostly using in-person absentee voting, rather than on election day.

Some voters prefer to go to the polls on election day itself, but Chatham’s board of elections has provided locations in Pittsboro, Siler City and Goldston, as well as at a church in northeastern Chatham County, to allow registered voters to go ahead and vote now. Those locations:

• the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro (1192 U.S. Hwy. 64 West Business)

• CCCC Chatham Health Sciences Center, located at 75 Ballentrae Court in Pittsboro

• Paul Braxton Gym, located at 115 S. Third Ave. in Siler City

• Goldston Town Hall, at 40 Coral Ave. in Goldston

• New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, located at 581 New Hope Church Rd. in Apex

Hours vary; you can go weekdays between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The last day for early voting is Saturday, May 14.

And absentee voting — how does that work?

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 10; that request must be done in writing. If you use an absentee ballot, it should be received by the board of elections office by 5 p.m. on May 17, although ballots may be counted if received in the elections office by 5 p.m. on the Friday after the election, provided the ballot is postmarked by May 17.

Then there’s voting by mail. Sounds confusing. Where can I get help?

Start at https://bit.ly/3y8fnhu or just call the board of elections at 919-545-8500. Pandora Paschal, the county’s elections director, and her staff are happy to help.

If I request a by-mail ballot, can I vote in person?

Yes. You can vote in person until your by-mail ballot is accepted by your county board of elections. If you request a by-mail ballot but go vote in person, tear up your by-mail ballot. If you bring it into the voting center, it triggers a number of procedures that may slow the voter check-in process.

If you vote twice, or try to, it’s a crime.

If I want to wait until May 17 to vote, what happens then?

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., but you must go to the precinct to which your home address is assigned. If you have questions, go to https://vt.ncsbe.gov/PPLkup/.

Turnout in midterm elections is generally light, but Chatham County has historically had higher turnout rates than most counties.

Do I have to wear a mask or face covering, or show ID, when I go vote?

No, in both cases.

What are the key races on this year’s ballot?

Technically, and realistically, every race is important and vital. Among other things, local elected officials set policies and statewide elected officials write laws; judicial officials help determine tone and legal precedents; federal and state legislative winners have significant impact on the direction of federal and state governments.

Still, there are some especially notable races on this year’s ballots, particularly locally:

Siler City Mayor: Siler City’s mayoral seat has been vacant since the death of Mayor John Grimes in October 2020. Voters will pick one candidate from among three challengers on May 17, with the winner taking office soon thereafter. Candidates are sitting Siler City at-large Commissioner Thomas “Chip” Price, a veteran on the board; retired local veteran and businessman Donald Matthews; and newcomer Nick Gallardo, who’s seeking office as part of a “Unity” ticket, made up of four new-to-Siler City men running as a bloc and promising to bring prosperity and equality to the town (see story in this week’s edition for more details).

• Siler City Town Commissioner races: three of the four races are contested, and among them only two incumbents (at-large Commissioner Cindy Bray, Dist. 5 Commissioner Lewis Fadely) are seeking reelection. (Commissioners Tony Siler, Dist. 1, and Bill Haiges, Dist. 4, aren’t seeking reelection.)

The other at-large commissioner, Price, is running for mayor, so he keeps that seat if he loses the mayor’s race.

Three of the candidates (including Bray) didn’t return questionnaires provided by the News + Record, and Bray seems to be excluded from the “bloc” of candidates appearing together in campaign ads — Price (mayor), Jay Underwood (at-large), Albert Alston (Dist. 1), and Fadely (Dist. 5). Like Bray, Alston didn’t provide answers to the News + Record’s questionnaire.

They face four Siler City newcomers — “Unity 2022” candidates Nick Gallardo (running for mayor), brothers Dean and Jared Picot (at-large and Dist. 5) and Samuel Williams (Dist. 1) — who are running as a bloc.

• Chatham County Commissioner Democrat primaries, Dist. 3 and Dist. 4: Dist. 3’s primary pits David Delaney against Lewis Hendricks, and Dist. 4’s primary is a three-way race between Albert Reddick, Katie Kenlan and Travis Patterson.

• N.C. House Dist. 54 Republican primary: The two Republicans seeking to unseat Democrat incumbent Robert Reives II are Walter Petty, the former long-time Chatham County commissioner, and newcomer Craig Kinsey, who opted to challenge Petty instead of seeking a Congressional seat.

• The District Attorney race: the contest between assistant DAs Kayley Taber and Jeff Nieman is also important; be on the lookout for a new Chatcast podcast interview featuring the two and dropping soon.

People near the polling place often hand out literature or ask me to support certain candidates. How should I deal with them? If I think they are being too pushy or working too close to the polling station, what should I do about it?

You can ignore them or have a chat. It’s up to you, as long as they’re outside the “buffer zone.”

There is an area around every polling place where that activity is not accepted. There should be a sign or clear delineation of that boundary. If campaigning is happening within the boundary, or if campaigners are being particularly aggressive, you can report them to the poll worker. Voter intimidation is not allowed, no matter where it happens.

If the campaigners are being aggressive or intimidating, report that behavior immediately to the N.C. State Board of Elections.

Why am I reading about Cary candidates in Chatham County elections?

Two Chatham precincts — in East Williams and New Hope — include areas within Cary’s town limits.

More questions?

Visit the Chatham County Board of Elections website at www.chathamcountync.gov/elections or call 919-545-8500.

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