Early Voting plans mixed in R-C area

Published 9:16 am Monday, August 29, 2016

In a few cases locally, the “jury” is still out on Early Voting (aka One-Stop).

Board of Elections officials in all four Roanoke Chowan area counties were left scrambling over the past two weeks to meet and develop Early Voting plans in advance of the Nov. 8 General Election. That came on the heels of what initially was expected to be a 10-day period, as per the Voter ID law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013, but was not put into effect until the 2016 March Primary.

However, since March, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled the majority of that law was unconstitutional. That decision led to the return of an extended Early Voting period that may begin as soon as Oct. 20 and end on the last Saturday (Nov. 5) prior to the General Election. The Circuit Court’s decision will also allow for same-day registration available at early voting sites.

A directive from the North Carolina BOE sent to the Board of Elections offices in all 100 counties directed those boards to meet and develop an Early Voting (One-Stop) plan. That plan can allow for more than one Early Voting location within a county. However, all counties are required to have at least one site opened during the duration of the Early Voting period.

According to an email sent Aug. 16 to all county Board of Elections offices, Kim Strach, Executive Director of the North Carolina BOE, said county BOE’s had until Wednesday of this week to submit a “majority” plan.

Most of the R-C area Boards of Elections met last week, to include Hertford County where the three-member board was in total agreement to open three Early Voting sites at the same locations used for the last presidential election in 2012. Those sites and operating dates/hours are:

Hertford County Cooperative Extension Office in Winton – 8:30 am – 5 pm on Oct. 20-21, on Oct. 24-28, and on Oct. 31 – Nov. 4; and 8:30 am – 1 pm on two Saturdays (Oct. 29 and Nov. 5); and

The Murfree Center (Murfreesboro) and RL Vann School (Ahoskie) – 12 noon – 6 pm on Oct. 20-21, on Oct. 24-28, and on Oct. 31 – Nov. 4; and 8:30 am – 1 pm on two Saturdays (Oct. 29 and Nov. 5).

Over in Bertie County, the Board of Elections met Aug. 16 and could not reach an agreement on Early Voting.

“We have submitted two plans to the State Board of Elections in Raleigh and they will make the decision on One-Stop Voting,” said Shelia Holloman, Bertie Elections Director.

Holloman said one plan calls for the opening of three One-Stop voting sites in the county: at the Board of Elections office (210 W. Watson St., Windsor); Powellsville Town Hall (Main St.) and the Lewiston-Woodville Fire Department (corner, Church and Early Streets. All three would be open from 8:30 am – 6 pm on weekdays (Oct. 20 – Nov. 4) and from 9 am – 1 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5.

“We will have three-to-four precinct workers at each polling location, and we could increase that number to five poll workers at each location,” Holloman said of the proposal to open three sites.

The second plan calls for One-Stop voting only at the Board of Elections Office in Windsor on weekdays during normal business hours (8:30 am – 5 pm) and from 9 am until 1 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The Northampton County Board of Elections met last week and failed to adopt any plan. Elections Director Susie Squire said the state BOE had been advised of that fact.

“It’s up to the state to come up with a plan for Northampton County,” Squire remarked.

The Gates County Board of Elections met Aug. 23 and agreed on a plan to open two, One-Stop voting locations

One site is at the Board of Elections office in Gatesville that will be open from 9 am – 8 pm on Oct. 20, Oct. 27, and Nov. 3; from 9 am – 6 pm on Oct. 21, 24, 25, 26, 28, 31 and Nov. 1, 2 and 4; and from 9 am – 1 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5.

The other Gates County site will be at St. John AME Church in Sunbury. That location will be open from 12 noon – 8 pm on Oct. 20, 27, and Nov. 3; 12 noon – 6 pm on Oct. 21, 24, 25, 26, 28, 31 and Nov. 1, 2, and 4; and from 9 am – 1 pm on Saturday, Nov. 5.

While the North Carolina BOE does allow counties to develop Early Voting hours on Sundays, it is not required. The boards in Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties opted against opening Early Voting sites on Sundays. Northampton’s decision is unknown since that board did not submit a plan to the state.

As per the decision reached by the Circuit Court, voters at Early Voting locations and those casting ballots on Nov. 8 will not be asked to show photo identification this election.

Additionally, if voters do not appear at their assigned precinct within their county, their vote will still count for all eligible contests. However, to avoid voting a provisional ballot, voters are encouraged to appear at their properly-assigned precinct on Election Day.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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