Board of Elections adds more hours to early voting period

Published 7:00 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

Beaufort County voters will have 66 more hours to vote during the upcoming early voting period.

The Beaufort County Board of Elections made that decision Friday afternoon during a special meeting. The Board of Elections office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 through Oct. 22 and Oct. 24 through Oct. 26.

On July 29, a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (based in Richmond, Virginia) struck down photo ID requirements and other election procedures that became law in 2013, including shortening of the early voting period from 17 days to 10 days and eliminating same-day registration. The panel said the law was passed with “racially discriminatory intent.”

In overturning the law, the panel eliminated the requirement that counties have the same number of early voting hours as they did in the 2012 presidential race. Counties have until Friday to decide how many hours will be in their early voting schedules. Last week, Kim Strach, state elections director, told county boards of elections to “be mindful” of expected turnout for the Nov. 8 general election and early voting’s popularity. Strach, in memorandum sent to local boards of elections, said she expects about 56 percent of voters to vote early this election cycle.

Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County, recommended adding the 66 hours to the early voting schedule approved by the board in June. At that time, the board did not know how courts would deal with lawsuits over the changes to the state’s election laws.

The schedule for those last 10 days of the early voting period follows: extended office hours at the Board of Elections office, 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27 through Oct. 29 and Oct. 31 through Nov. 5, and from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 5. Three satellite offices (Aurora, Belhaven, and Chocowinity) would be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 2 through Nov. 4 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 5, 198.5 hours.

“This has been the strangest election year in the 18 years I’ve been doing this,” Hopkins said, noting the various court decisions related to the state’s voting laws handed down in recent months. Later, addressing the schedule adopted in June, she said, “What really has moved me this week is the fact … is the train has left the station. We’ve let Democracy North Carolina know our (earlier approved) schedule. The parties have already made plans, both the Republicans and the Democrats. It doesn’t have anything to do with one or the other. They made plans for working those days at one-stop. The candidates have made plans and so forth.”

The board was concerned that changing the schedule for the last 10 days of the early voting period would confuse voters.

Marcus Thompson, a regional coordinator with Democracy North Carolina, attended the meeting. He told the board his organization’s goal with the voting process is to “get it as open as we can.”

A related lawsuit in state court has been put on hold as a result of the federal court’s July 29 ruling. In June, Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan, a candidate for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, set Sept. 26 as the date when the lawsuit would be heard. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit contend the election law changes intentionally discriminate against blacks and American Indians at lopsided rates.

On Tuesday, Morgan met with lawyers involved in the lawsuit, deciding to delay the hearing because of the Fourth Court’s ruling.




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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