Democracy NC Statement on State Board of Elections Approvals of Early Voting Plans
Voting Rights group calls yesterday’s meeting an “overall victory” for North Carolina voters.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Yesterday, in a 12-hour marathon meeting, the N.C. State Board of Elections resolved the contested Early Voting plans from 33 of the state’s 100 counties. In 26 bipartisan votes, the three Republicans and two Democrats on the board chose plans that added more hours or voting sites, or both; but in seven party-line votes, they approved the weakest option before them.
Democracy North Carolina, the state’s largest voting-rights organization, called the meeting an “overall victory” and lauded the actions of the State Board, its staff, and the local leaders who fought for strong Early Voting plans.
“Overall, it was a positive day for North Carolina voters, thanks in large part to the groundswell of citizen activists who for months have championed the public’s interests above partisan rhetoric. Local pressure from concerned voters pushed county elections board members to support Early Voting options like Sunday and on-campus voting,” said Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Bob Hall.
Sunday voting, a popular option for African Americans, was a focus of debate in a majority of the non-unanimous Early Voting plans considered during the State Board meeting. Altogether, 22 counties will now host some Sunday voting hours during the Early Voting period beginning October 20. Those counties include Anson, Buncombe, Catawba, Craven, Cumberland, Durham, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Hyde, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Person, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Sampson, Vance, Wake, Wayne, and Wilson.
Hall added, “Throughout the day, it was clear the Fourth Circuit’s ruling against North Carolina’s discriminatory voter suppression law influenced the State Board’s considerations in restoring Sunday voting and voting centers in African-American communities that local Republicans had cut out of their Early Voting plans.”
For example, the State Board ordered counties to open centers that historically served African-American and other voters in Bertie, Lenoir, Northampton and Stanly counties. They also added back Sunday voting used in 2012 in Craven, Cumberland, Hoke, Pitt, and Richmond counties, and they approved local bipartisan plans with Sunday hours in Person, Robeson, Rowan, and Vance counties.
Other counties faced significant cuts to Early Voting options. Notably, the State Board ordered Wake County (Raleigh) to go from one to nine voting sites in the first week of Early Voting, and told Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) to increase from 6 to 10 in the first week, making sure both counties provided more Early Voting hours than they did in 2012.
While there were many success stories yesterday, there were also several disappointments. For example, Union, Gaston and New Hanover counties lost popular Sunday voting options used respectively in 2012, 2014 and the March 2016 primary.
“Now that Early Voting plans are largely settled, our work will shift to making sure they work well and are well used,” said Hall. “We need to prepare voters for the loss of straight-ticket voting and also make sure elections workers are properly trained and polling places are fully equipped. We have more voters, needing more time to vote, in precincts that are more crowded – all happening under the national spotlight of a swing state. It’s time for all of us to work together for the good of the whole.”
Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and training to increase civic participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and remove systemic barriers to voting and serving in elected office.
MEDIA CONTACT: Bob Hall, Democracy NC, 919-489-1931 or 919-599-3467 (cell)