Dare commissioners decline to take up resolution on early voting hours
By IRENE NOLAN
Dare County Board of Commissioners declined to entertain a motion
presented by a citizen during public comment to ask the county's Board
of Elections to expand the early voting hours that are currently
planned for November's election.
Both Audrey Esposito of the Dare County League of Women Voters (LWV)
and Sandy Semans Ross, an advocate for Democracy NC, criticized the
Board of Elections' current early voting plan during the public comment
period during the Monday night meeting of the commissioners.
Esposito said she and the league were "disappointed" by the board's
refusal to expand early voting hours, especially to include more
weekend hours. She noted to the commissioners that more people
voted on the one Saturday that was available for early voting in the
March primary than voted during all the weekdays combined.
Ross noted that Dare County ranked 93rd among North Carolina's 100
counties in early voting, falling "well below the state average in
turnout and hours available," she said.
Both Ross and LWV representatives have been attending Board of
Elections meetings over the summer urging members to expand early
voting hours, which had been set from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays
and on one Saturday only -- and only at the board's office in
Manteo. No Saturday hours are being offered at satellite early
voting locations -- the Pitts Center in Southern Shores, Kill Devil
Hills Town Hall, and the Fessenden Center in Buxton.
The Board of Elections met again last Friday, Aug. 12, to reconsider
its hours after a U.S. Court of Appeals decision that struck down parts
of North Carolina's new voting law, including the requirement for a
voter ID and a part that cut back the hours for early voting. LWV
representatives and Ross were among those who attended the meeting as
asked for expanded weekday hours for citizens to vote before and after
work and more weekend hours, including Saturdays and Sundays.
The League presented the results of an informal survey it conducted
that found that most of the 355 respondents favored more weekend, early
morning and/or evening hours for early voting.
Ten people commented at the Board of Elections Friday meeting -- nine in favor of expanded hours.
The board agreed to tweak the hours to include voting until 6 p.m. in
the evening, but did not add any early morning hours and did not add
any more than the single Saturday of voting that the law
requires. There was no Sunday voting added, and the Saturday
voting is in Manteo only.
At the Board of Commissioners meeting, Esposito and Ross noted that the
North Carolina Board of Elections has issued guidance to the local
boards, calling on them to be prepared for a heavy turnout in November,
a Presidential election year. The two women also noted that there
were long lines at many Dare County precincts in the March
primary, which they said was another reason to add more early voting
Michelle Barnes, Board of Elections director, told Island Free Press
reporter Catherine Kozak that Dare County has never had more than one
Saturday of early voting and that no one has asked for more.
Ross told the Board of Commissioners that may be because Dare
citizens don't realize that the early-voting schedule is set by each
county, not in Raleigh.
Ross and Esposito also told the commissioners that time "was of the
essence" because the Board of Elections had only until Friday, Aug. 19,
to make its early-voting schedule final.
Ross then read a resolution calling for the Board of Elections to expand voting hours.
After public comment, Board Chairman Bob Woodard asked the
commissioners if they wished to take up the issue of early
voting. Woodard said he would support asking the Board of
Elections chairman to address the commissioners about the early voting
issue at their next meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Commissioner Margarette Umphlett made a motion to invite the Board of
Elections to the Sept. 6 meeting, and it was seconded by Commissioner
During discussion, Umphlett noted that she was not in favor of voting
at the Monday evening meeting before the commissioners had a chance to
talk to the Board of Elections.
The motion to issue the invitation to the elections board chairman to attend the Sept. 6 meeting passed unanimously.
Commissioner Warren Judge then made a motion that the board reconsider and adopt the resolution presented by Ross.
Judge noted the spread-out nature of the county's population, and thus
the need for more hours at satellite early-voting offices, and the fact
that Dare County "has a working population" needing hours before and
after work to vote.
He called the resolution "sharing our desire to expand access for all of Dare County to exercise their right to vote."
The motion died for lack of a second, so there was no vote.
THE FULL TEXT OF THE RESOLUTION
A Resolution Calling for The Dare County Board of Elections to Expand Early Voting Hours
Whereas in 2012, Dare County ranked 93rd in early voting, falling well
below the state average in turnout and in hours available; and
Whereas the recent court decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals has
reinstated a longer early voting period and given the Board of
Elections an opportunity to expand early voting; and
Whereas The North Carolina Board of Elections has issued guidance to
local Boards of Election calling for them to prepare for heavy voter
turnout in this election cycle; and
Whereas There were long lines at many precincts during primary voting in Dare County; and
Whereas expanding early voting hours to include voting before 9:00
a.m., voting during evening hours, and voting on Saturday and Sunday at
satellite sites would allow more voters to easily participate in the
election, reduce wait times on election day and promote participation
in our democracy; and
Whereas The Dare Board of Elections has adopted an early voting plan
that has no early morning voting, no Sunday voting and only one
day of Saturday voting at one location.
Therefore, the Dare County Board of Commissioners requests that the
Dare County Board of Elections reconsider its early voting plan adopted
on Monday, August 8, and submit a plan that provides early morning
voting, Sunday voting and expands Saturday hours and locations.