September 30, 2014



Both Dare and Hyde are ready for early voting, election day


By CATHERINE KOZAK

As a panel of federal judges is considering whether to allow the upcoming general election in North Carolina to proceed under the new election law, local election officials in Hyde and Dare counties say they are not expecting any problems no matter what is decided.

“We’re just going forward until we’re told to stop,” said Melva Garrison, Dare’s elections director. “If it comes down to it, we’re ready to do whatever they hand down.”

Despite a number of changes last year in election rules, Garrison said that the primary election in May presented very few complications.

“Nothing that stands out,” she said. “We have adjusted to it and moved along. It’s been very easy, really.”

Hyde County had a similarly smooth primary election experience.

“We didn’t have any issues with it,” said Viola Williams, Hyde’s elections director.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election in North Carolina is Oct. 10.  A request for an absentee ballot must be submitted to the county Board of Elections office by Oct. 28.

The state’s new election law, passed by the General Assembly at the end of the 2013 legislative session, shortened early voting days by a week -- while keeping the number of hours the same – and ended same-day voting, which allowed voters to register and vote on the same day.

The law also prohibited voters who show up at the wrong precinct from casting a provisional ballot, and stopped a program that provided early voter registration for 16- and 17-year-olds who would be age 18 on election day. 

One of the most controversial parts of the law that requires a photo-ID to vote does not go into effect until 2016.

Last Thursday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Charlotte heard oral arguments on suspending provisions of the law until after the upcoming election. A ruling has not yet been issued.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and other voters rights groups, filed a lawsuit challenging the new law shortly after it was passed.

A motion was rejected last month by a lower court judge to have the provisions on early voting, same-day registration, and provisional ballots put aside until a trial court hears the case in July.

The voting groups contend that thousands of voters in North Carolina, especially minorities and young people, will be disenfranchised if the law is allowed to go forward before the November elections. But U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder of Winston-Salem ruled that they did not prove that the provisions would cause “irreparable harm.”

However, Garrison said that in Dare County, the voters in the primary election – albeit the 16.6 percent of registered voters that voted - did not seem to be affected by the changes.

Garrison said that she heard few if any complaints, even about the fewer days with the very popular early voting.  Part of the reason may be the state’s effort to educate the public about the new voting law, she said, but it could also be explained by a lack of attention.

“With the primary, people are not as concerned about it,” she said. “They’d rather vote in November.” 

If the trend continues, close to 50 percent of Dare’s 27,941 registered voters will be expected to vote during one-stop early voting, which will be available from Oct. 23 through Nov. 1.

So far, Garrison said she has heard no concern about the elimination of provisional ballots at precincts.

“I think it may be because we’re so small here in Dare County,” she said. “People are familiar with going to the same polls.”

Although the voter ID requirement will not be implemented until 2016, Garrison said that poll workers were working to identify folks during the primary who may need the identification.

“We did not find one single person in the primary who signed an affidavit saying that they did not have a picture ID,” Garrison said.

Older folks, including a number of blacks, who have voted curbside have no problem with the ID, she said.

“If it is an issue,” she said, “then we have everything in place to show them how to get what they need.” 

According to the new law, a voter will have to present photo identification before voting. But only certain ID qualifies -- a picture ID from the state Division of Motor Vehicles, a driver’s license from DMV; a U.S. passport; a military ID; a veterans ID, and a tribal enrollment card. Student ID cards, even from state universities, do not qualify.

Williams, in Hyde County, said that some folks have been “ruffled” by the voting changes, but she said that is to be expected with any significant change. 

Unlike Dare’s small turnout, more than 40 percent of the county’s 3,483 registered voters – 765 of which are on Ocracoke Island -- cast a ballot in Hyde’s primary election. All of the voters were asked if they had suitable ID, Williams said. Of them, she said, only four said they lacked the picture ID.

Another difference from Dare is that few in the Hyde electorate take advantage of one-stop voting.

“Most of us are Election Day people,” Williams said.

ONE-STOP VOTING SCHEDULE

In Dare County:


SITE #1 - DARE COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS OFFICE
954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo.
Monday – Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 1, from 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.


SITE #2 - BAUM CENTER
300 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills.
Monday - Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


SITE #3 - FESSENDEN CENTER
46830 Highway 12 in Buxton.
Monday–Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


SITE #4 - PITT CENTER
5377 North Virginia Dare Trail in Southern Shores.
Monday–Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m.


For information, contact the Dare County Board of Elections office at 252-475-5630.


In Hyde County:

Board of Elections Site, Teaching Kitchen, Swan Quarter.
Thursday, Oct. 23-Saturday, Nov. 1   8 a.m. until 5 p.m.


Ocracoke Site, New Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department
Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information, contact the Hyde County Board of Elections office at 252- 926-4194.


More Information

Voters can see a sample ballot for their county and view their profile at: https://www.ncsbe.gov/webapps/voter_search/


For online voter registration applications, visit http://www.ncsbe.gov/ncsbe/Voter-Information/VR-Form




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