Board OKs polling place

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The polling place for the Hunter’s Bridge precinct is set to move to the fellowship hall at Free Union Free Will Baptist Church, if the N.C. State Board of Elections and the U.S. Justice Department approve the move.

During its brief meeting Monday, the three-member Beaufort County Board of Elections unanimously adopted a resolution of intent to locate the polling place to the church. The State Board of Elections and the U.S. Justice Department will receive copies of the resolution for their perusal and consideration of approval. The department’s review is triggered by its regulation regarding any election changes in North Carolina counties covered under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 requires “preclearance” of election changes in counties affected by said section of the act, which was designed to guarantee equal voting rights for minorities. In North Carolina, 40 counties are subject to the preclearance mandate, including Beaufort County.

If the change is approved, that means the Hunter’s Bridge precinct will not be dissolved, which was an option before the board.

During a meeting at the Beaufort County Board of Elections office last week, church spokesman Tommy Webster said the church is willing to let the fellowship hall be used as a polling place (for the May 8 primary) to replace the one destroyed by an apparent arson last spring. Webster said the church is also willing to allow an adjacent building (a former Scout hut) to be used as a polling place after the May 8 primary.

Since that meeting last week, Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, inspected the proffered facilities to determine if they meet polling-place standards and comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. After listening to Hopkins describe the facilities and viewing photographs of them, the board made its decision to move the polling place to the church.

“I’m very much in favor of that because it’s very, very convenient,” said Jim Vosburgh, the Republican member of the board. “No matter what the weather circumstances, they’ll be well taken care of there. People can drive up, let people out and move on and park.”

Hopkins said as soon as she gets word from the State Board of Elections regarding its approval of moving the Hunter’s Bridge polling place (if that occurs), she will notify voters in the Hunter’s Bridge precinct of the change.

“I will send it to the state board to get in opinion. I can usually get a turnaround in a week, if the state board approves it. I’m going to send it to Justice at the same time. It will be simultaneous. If the state approves it, then I’ll mail out the cards, which should be within two weeks,” she said.

In other action, the board unanimously voted to retain the polling place for the Gilead precinct on the south side of the Pamlico River to the neighboring Chocowinity precinct polling place (located in the Chocowinity Fire Department building) on a temporary basis.

Voters in the Gilead precinct have been voting at the Chocowinity precinct since the loss of Ephesus Free Will Baptist Church as the polling place in the Gilead precinct and the loss of a proposed replacement polling place forced the board to shift voters from Gilead precinct to the Chocowinity polling place in 2008.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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