Elections board seeks to publicize early voting

Published 5:42 pm Monday, September 12, 2016

Citing confusion over early voting schedules caused by a recent federal court ruling, the Beaufort County Board of Elections wants to do what it can to clear up that confusion.

To do that, the board is looking at “advertising” the county’s early voting schedule.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to reinstate North Carolina’s voter ID law. The 4-4 split by the high court keeps intact a July 29 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (based in Richmond, Virginia) that 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.”

With the early voting period returned to 17 days, many of the state’s 100 counties revised their early voting schedules. At its Aug. 12 meeting, the Beaufort County board revised the schedule it adopted in June by adding 66 hours to the first week of the early voting period, which begins Oct. 20. The North Carolina State Board of Elections approved that schedule last week.

Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, told the three-member local board “advertising” the county’s one-stop voting schedule should help reduce, if not eliminate, confusion among voters regarding early voting. Recalling that nearly 75 percent of the county’s 32,000 voters market ballots in the 2012 general election, Harris expects a higher turnout for this year’s general election. “I would rather us put too much into this election and make it go extremely smooth and say, ‘OK, we didn’t need that many people,’ than have lines out the door,” she said.

“At 5 o’clock, you don’t want to see the lines out there,” board member Tom Payne.

“We don’t want to see it at 7:30 (p.m.), and then it be 9 o’clock before people get through voting, and we can’t release results because of that,” Hopkins said.

“I also would like to advertise one-stop more than we normally do. What do y’all thin about that? I’m thinking about making up some posters and putting them out in Aurora, Belhaven and around Chocowinity,” Hopkins told the board. The board has never posted posters and similar notices in grocery stores and other similar sites where people visit.

“We can get some out. I may even call … municipalities — and then on their electric bills a lot of times they have little memos on the bottom of their electric bills —to see if they can put it (early voting information) on their electric bills or water bills or something like that — one-stop hours,” she said.

Board member Tom Payne said, “The more notices that we have, the easier it’s going to be on Election Day.”

“Y’all have no idea. I’d rather get hammered during one-stop that on Election Day,” Hopkins replied.

As the result of the federal court’s ruling July 29, the Beaufort County Board of Elections, at its Aug. 12 meeting, adopted the following early voting schedule:

During the first week of early voting, 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.

The schedule for the final 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.


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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