Early voting for the March 3 primary starts today in Forsyth County, with a new look for voters as most make their first use of new voting machines.
Voting starts at 8 a.m. at 11 locations around the county, including the main elections office in downtown Winston-Salem.
Offices from U.S. president to Forsyth County commissioner will be on the ballot, as well as a proposal to impose a quarter-cent sales tax meant to boost teacher pay.
Voting takes place from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays through Feb. 28.
Saturday voting will take place on Feb. 22 and Feb. 29, but not this Saturday, said Tim Tsujii, the county elections director. When Saturday voting occurs, voting will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tsujii said Wednesday that the county's new voting machines are ready to go.
"All the machines for early voting have been tested, and we are in the process of delivering them to all the sites," Tsujii said.
Members of the Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Constitution and Green parties all have primaries. Unaffiliated voters can choose to vote in the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties, as those parties have opened up their primaries to unaffiliated voters.
The Constitution and Green parties have closed primaries, meaning only members of the party can vote in the primary.
An unaffiliated voter who doesn't want to vote in a party primary can ask for the nonpartisan ballot. The only contest on that ballot is the one on the quarter-cent sales tax increase.
As of Feb. 3, the county had 256,213 registered voters. There were 101,411 Democrats, 73,328 Republicans and 1,391 Libertarians. The Constitution Party had 109 members here and the Green Party had 86 members.
The deadline to vote in the March 3 primary passed on Feb. 7, but people who are not registered but otherwise eligible can both register and vote during the early-voting period.
For the 2020 election cycle, and for years to come, Forsyth County voters will be using machine-counted paper ballots in both early voting and election-day voting.
That's a change-up from the recent past, which saw touch-screen voting in early voting, followed by paper ballots for election-day voters.
New rules require all counties to have voting systems that rely on paper ballots. Voters mark their choices by filling in ovals on the paper ballot. No write-in votes are allowed in a primary election, Tsujii said.
People with disabilities can request use of a touch-screen voting machine that will be available at each polling place, but even that produces a paper ballot that can then be counted by machine. The touch-screen machine can even read out names to those who need that.
Tsujii said the tabulators that voters put their ballots in for counting have the ability to detect mismarked ballots or ones that are marked for more candidates than the voter is supposed to select.
But the machines won't pick up on someone not voting at all on some contest, since some voters pick and choose which races they want to vote in.
Voters living in any precinct can vote at any of the early-voting sites.
Here are the sites:
*Forsyth County Board of Elections, 201 N. Chestnut St. in the Forsyth County Government Center.
*Brown & Douglas Community Center, 4725 Indiana Ave., Winston-Salem.
*Clemmons Branch Library, 3554 Clemmons Road, Clemmons.
*Kernersville Branch Library (Paddison Memorial Branch Library), 248 Harmon Lane, Kernersville.
*Lewisville Branch Library, 6490 Shallowford Road, Lewisville.
*Mazie Woodruff Center, 4905 Lansing Drive, Winston-Salem.
*Old Town Recreation Center, 4550 Shattalon Drive, Winston-Salem.
*Polo Park Recreation Center, 1850 Polo Road, Winston-Salem.
*Rural Hall Branch Library, 7125 Broad St., Rural Hall.
*Southside Branch Library, 3185 Buchanan St., Winston-Salem.
*Winston-Salem State University Anderson Center, 1545 Reynolds Park Road, Winston-Salem.