Consistent with everything else unusual about 2020, the number of ballots cast on Election Day (Tuesday) in Wilkes County was less than half of those cast during absentee, by-mail voting and one-stop, early voting combined.

The county's record 80% voter turnout (35,345) in this year’s general election included 10,960 people voting on Election Day, 20,109 in one-stop, early voting and 4,276 with absentee ballots. These vote totals are unofficial until certified by the Wilkes Board of Elections and will likely change slightly.

Driven by concerns about COVID-19, a record 5,739 absentee ballots were requested by non-military personnel, 36 by people in the military and 39 by civilians living overseas. To be counted in North Carolina, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and be received by the board of elections on or before Nov. 12.

Twenty-four completed absentee ballots returned to voters with instructions on what was needed to comply with state requirements haven’t been sent back. Some of these people could have opted to vote in person on Election Day instead.

In the 2016 general election, 1,023 absentee and 15,419 one-stop ballots were cast before 14,844 people voted on Election Day in Wilkes for an unofficial total of 31,314 (73.27% voter turnout). Election Day 2012 saw 15,219 ballots cast in Wilkes after 12,745 in one-stop voting and 1,377 people voted absentee for an unofficial total of 29,341 (69% voter turnout)

Local races

There were no surprises in the race for three Wilkes County commissioner seats. Incumbents Eddie Settle and Keith Elmore and political newcomer Casey Joe Johnson easily defeated the two Democratic candidates, Chalma Hunt and D. Jerome Watkins, both running for the first time.

Johnson, a teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, and Settle, current chairman, finished with 24,929 and 24,770 votes respectively. Elmore had 23,241. Watkins and Hunt received 7,395 and 7,193 votes respectively. Johnson was also the top vote-getter in the primary.

In the Ronda mayoral race, former commissioner Rheajean Benge defeated incumbent Victor Varela 100 to 80.

Kevin Reece, a former Ronda commissioner, received 105 votes in his bid to return to the board by claiming one of two seats on he ballot. Incumbent Sandra Simmons, with 86 votes, will remain on the board. Bobby Munsey and Gene Fowler trailed with 47 and 43 respectively.

Incumbent Charlie Sink edged out cattle farmer Charles Porter, 14,855 to 14,340, in the race for Wilkes Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor.

Porter stated at the Wilkes Board of Elections office Wednesday that he would seek a recount of the votes, but Wilkes Board of Elections Supervisor Kim Caudill said later that day that the results didn’t meet the requirements for a runoff.

For non-statewide contests, the difference between the candidates must be 1% or less of the total votes cast in the contest. Caudill said the difference between the voted for Sink and Porter had to be less than 296 but the difference was 515 votes.

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