August 18, 2016
UPDATE: Board of Elections adds early
morning hours but not weekends
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
hours have been added to the early voting site at the Dare County Board
of Elections office, addressing criticism that the board’s prior
schedule offered limited hours for voters on their way to work and
The Manteo site will now open at 8:30 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.,
according to the plan submitted to the state Board of Elections on Aug.
16. It will still close at 6 p.m.
The board's final plan does not expand the hours available for weekend
voting. The only weekend hours at any site will be 8:30 – 1 p.m. on
Saturday, Nov. 5, in Manteo.
“This earlier opening will better serve the voters of Dare County and
increases our total early voting hours offered to 262.5 hours,” Dare
County Board of Elections Director Michelle Barnes said in an
Early voting will be available for 13 days from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 at
the Board of Elections office and for 12 days at satellite sites in
Southern Shores, Kill Devil Hills and Buxton. On Oct. 26 and Nov. 1,
satellite locations will be opened 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to accommodate
public meetings. Otherwise, the satellites will offer early voting from
2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.
At Monday’s county Board of Commissioners meeting, two speakers
representing non-partisan voters advocacy groups asked the board during
the public comment period to support expansion of early voting hours at
Dare County locations in the morning and on weekends.
Audrey Esposito, with the Dare County League of Women Voters, said that
statistics show that Saturday voting in Dare County had twice the
number of voters than weekday voters at the other locations.
“Based on the data, the hours should be expanded on weekends,” she told the board.
Representing Democracy NC, Sandy Semans Ross asked the board to adopt a
resolution in favor of an expanded early voting schedule.
“Overwhelmed polls on Election Day leads to more errors,” she said,
“and lack of good voting opportunities can cost candidates races if it
keeps their supporters from casting ballots.”
Commissioner Warren Judge made a motion in support of the resolution, but it was not seconded.
“We certainly have a geographically drawn-out county, we have a
population that works numerous jobs,” Judge said. “If we compare
ourselves to other areas, we are woefully behind in the access that we
The board voted unanimously to invite the chair of the Board of
Elections, Donna Elms, to its next meeting to explain the rationale
behind the early voting schedule and other concerns. Although
Judge agreed to the motion, he pointed out that the early voting issue
would be a moot point by then.
State election officials have warned local election boards to expect
heavy turnout in November, and encouraged scheduling enough early
voting hours at different locations to accommodate the additional
Dare County had a total of 26,656 registered voters in the 2008 general
election and 68.14 percent turnout; 28,230 registered voters in 2012
and 64.30 percent turnout. Currently, there are 28,824 registered
voters in Dare County.
According to Democracy NC, 56 percent of North Carolinians who went to
the polls in 2012 cast their ballots during the 17-day early voting
period. But Dare County ranks 93 out of the 100 counties in the number
of early voters, which voting advocates say indicates inconvenient
hours and locations.
The number of early voting days was slashed by seven days in the
state’s controversial voter ID law, but those days were restored when a
federal judge overturned the law earlier this month. The ruling,
however, left it up to local election boards to set hours and locations
for early voting.
Shortly before the judge had thrown the law out, the Dare board had
agreed to schedule early voting hours on Monday – Friday from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. and the mandated Saturday morning before Election Day. It
subsequently expanded the hours in the afternoon to 6 p.m. at the
The three-member Dare County Board of Elections is Republican
controlled. In addition to Elms, the members are Carole Warnecki,
secretary, and Lynda Midgett.
According the an article published Aug. 16 in the Raleigh News &
Observer, the North Carolina Republican Party encouraged Republican
county election board members “to make party line changes to early
The party’s executive director Dallas Woodhouse had sent an email on
Sunday, according to the newspaper, that recommended ways to restrict
early voting -- limit Sunday voting, provide fewer voting opportunities
and don’t include sites at college campuses.
By law, counties must offer only one early voting site during regular
business hours and on the Saturday morning before the election.
The additional morning hours announced Wednesday by the Dare County
Board of Elections were welcomed, said Lorelei DiBernardo, president of
Dare County League of Women Voters. But she said she is still
disappointed that there are limited morning hours and no weekend hours
offered at the satellite sites.
“Do they want people to vote, or not?” she said. “I think there should
be weekend hours on both Saturday and Sunday. There are three weekends
– all the weekends should be open some hours.”