Glen Maney casts his ballot during early voting, two weeks before election day. Photo by BEN KATZ

SCOUTING AROUND: Record turnout for first day of early voting

    Early voting started in North Carolina last week, and Cherokee County saw more than 600 people on Thursday, the first day it was open.
    “That is record turnout for the first day,” said Leighsa Jones, director of elections.
    In addition, she already has received more than 200 of the almost 600 absentee ballots that were mailed.
    “I think they’re just excited to vote,” she said. “We’ve had some comment, ‘I just want to get it over with.’ ”
    Anyone can vote early at the elections office downtown in the courthouse annex at 40 Peachtree St. until 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. For the remainder of this week, the office will be open for voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The elections office will open again for voting 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Halloween, then stay open until 7 p.m. for the rest of that week.
    “They have lots of options available,” Jones said, in addition to voting on Election Day, Nov. 8. “It should meet everybody’s needs.”
    With the spread of misinformation across the Internet and some changes to voting process, there are a few things voters are questioning. First, Jones said even though Cherokee County has touch-screen voting machines, every vote is recorded on paper.
    “These machines have an internal memory as well as a verifiable paper trail,” she said.
    One disappointment for some people is that there is no option for straight party voting. Voters must select each individual they wish to vote for. Also, the only form of online voting is through an email ballot sent to residents living overseas.
    “As far as going online and pulling up a ballot to vote, that’s not possible,” Jones said.
    All traditionally mailed absentee ballots are mailed in two envelopes, which would make it hard for someone to tamper with the ballots before reaching the elections office. She added she has full confidence in the U.S. Postal Service to safely deliver all absentee ballots.
    Last, anyone who is not already registered may register during the early voting period, then vote at the same time, but they cannot do this on Nov. 8, Jones said. While voter identification cards may include a warning that a photo ID is required to vote, it is not in North Carolina.

Pet store celebrates
    Thirty years ago, a teenage Jimmy Nix was the first employee Bill Patterson hired at Mountain Pets. He soon went into the U.S. Air Force but stayed in the business, working at an aquatic store in South Carolina and learning from fish farmers in Japan over the years serving our country.
    He retired from the Air Force eight years ago, and within two years was back at Mountain Pets. In January, Patterson retired and passed the business on to Nix.
    “I’ve always wanted to run my own business,” Nix said. “It’s just something I really find rewarding, to help people with their animals.”
    This week, Nix is celebrating Mountain Pets being in business for 30 years.
    “I really don’t think there are many businesses that can say that,” he said.
    Over the years, the business has changed from being just pets to branching out more into animal care, especially premium dog and cat food. The store continues to have pond fish, pond supplies, small animals and reptiles.
    Nix thinks it’s the people who work at the store that have allowed it to survive for three decades.
    “The biggest thing I’m proud of the store is our friendly customer service and knowledge,” he said. “I think just that personal touch, and caring about our customers and their animals, is what make us successful.”
    The store will have a customer appreciation day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, complete with refreshments, contests and giveaways. Vendors also will be at the store to answer questions.
    Nix said the store will be giving away close to $2,000 worth of prizes, including a year’s supply of dog food. Purchases are not required to win, so come on down.

School bazaar at depot
    The Hiwassee Dam School Parent-Teacher Organization is holding a Fall Bazaar from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the L&N Depot in downtown Murphy.
    The event will feature vendors like local crafters, as well as local representatives from brands like Mary Kay, Origami Owl, LuLaRoe and Tupperware. The PTO also will have a concession stand, where shoppers can purchase soup and coffee to support the school.
    PTO President Kristie Harbin said they decided to have the bazaar at the L&N Depot because the school is far from town, and they thought they could get more interest for an event in Murphy.
    “It would be wonderful to see the community support the vendors and shop locally,” she said.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message at 837-5122.