Storm-related damage at polling places could present voting problems

Published 7:26 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

As if elections officials at the state and county levels haven’t had other issues — federal subpoenas for voting information and lawsuits involving elections-related matters — affecting the upcoming Nov. 6 general election, Hurricane Florence may pose more challenges for those officials to address.

On Monday, the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement staff communicated with elections officials in all 100 counties to assess weather conditions and potential effects on the 2018 elections. The state board also contacted leaders of the state’s recognized political parties to keep an open line of communication about conditions caused by Florence.

Flooding and high winds associated with Florence might have destroyed some polling places and damaged others across the state to the point where they might not be repaired in time for the general election. Beaufort County has 22 polling places, one at the Board of Elections office and the remaining 21 polling places spread throughout the county— one each at the 21 precincts.

Beaufort County’s polling places were spared damage.

“We’re all good,” said Anita Bullock Branch, deputy director of elections, at the Beaufort County Board of Elections on Tuesday.

State board spokesman Patrick Gannon said it’s too soon to know the severity of the storm’s effects on polling places and boards of elections offices across the state, “but that is something we will continue to assess.” That assessment could take several days because “flooding in some parts will get worse before it gets better,” he said.

If polling places had been destroyed or damaged to the point they would not be available for early voting period or Election Day, a county’s elections board would have to find alternative polling places and approve them, according to state law.

Most county boards of elections have been and will continue to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters who have requested them. The state board is stepping in to send out ballots for several counties that are unable to do so because their operations are affected by flooding, power and internet outages or inaccessible because of the storm.

“We are assessing emergency options, and our team is committed to assisting county boards and voters in the affected areas, said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the state board, in a news release.


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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