North Carolina Voting Advocates Call For Expanded Early Voting Hours

Aug 12, 2016

With a presidential election and hotly-contested U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, voter turnout in North Carolina could top 67 percent this fall.
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County boards of election are racing to meet an August 19th deadline to put together new early voting plans.

The 10-day early voting schedule adopted earlier this year had to be scrapped when a federal court struck down North Carolina's 2012 voting law last month.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling did away with the requirement to present a photo ID at the polls and also reinstated a week of early voting that had been cut, meaning boards of election in all 100 counties must plan for 17 days of early voting.

Bob Hall, director of the non-partisan voting rights group Democracy North Carolina, said county election officials need to expand early voting hours to accommodate what's projected to be high voter turnout.

"Precincts have grown in size. They cannot be accommodated on Election Day," said Hall. "You really need a strong early voting plan to siphon voters away from Election Day or you're going to have a train wreck."

He noted this will be the first presidential election in which North Carolinians will not have the chance to vote a single-party straight ticket, meaning voters could take longer to fill out lengthy ballots.

Democracy North Carolina is calling on Governor Pat McCrory to release $2.5 million from his contingency fund to pay for additional voting equipment and extra poll workers.

"He's already spent nearly $5 million to fight this law," said Hall. "He lost the case, so he really ought to put some money in to help beef up this week of early voting that they had cut out. We got it back and they need to make it right."

Hall said he's concerned some county boards may move to limit hours or locations for early voting in what he calls a short-sighted bid for partisan advantage.

"It doesn't just help one party or another,” said Hall. "The truth is, in 2010, the biggest group using early voting was white, Republican men. In 2008, it was African-American women. It changes from year to year depending on who’s excited."