August 25, 2016
Election board meets again, makes
no changes to early voting
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
hastily-called meeting was held Wednesday by the Dare County Board of
Elections to approve an early voting schedule that had been improperly
voted on last week in a conference call.
After it was pointed out to county Board of Elections director Michelle
Barnes that the Aug. 16 vote was not conducted in public as required by
law, it was decided to re-do the vote in a public meeting.
Despite several comments from the public on Wednesday urging that the
schedule be expanded with more weekend hours, the board approved the
same plan, which had amended an earlier plan by adding more morning
hours in Manteo, but no additional hours on Saturday or Sunday.
The plan has weekend hours only in Manteo, on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“This should not be a political matter at all,” said Fountain
Odom, chairman of the Dare County Democratic Party. “We ought to make
it as easy as possible and encouraging for all registered voters in
Sandy Semans Ross, a Stumpy Point resident representing Democracy NC, a
non-partisan voting advocacy group, suggested to the board that Tuesday
to Saturday hours would better serve older citizens and working
families, without adding more hours to the schedule.
“The problem is not that people know that there is early voting or where it is,” she said, “it’s that they can’t get there.”
In an email sent Friday to Barnes, Ross – a longtime open meetings law
proponent -- had informed her that the conference call the board held
last week was a violation of the state statute because it provided no
public access to the phone call, essentially making it a closed
meeting. Also, there was no public notice issued.
In supporting Ross’ proposed scheduled, Rosemarie Doshier, an East Lake
resident and a Democratic candidate for the Dare County Board of
Commissioners, said that she has family members in Kill Devil Hills who
have had to wait in line for 1 ½ hours to vote. Providing more weekend
hours, she said, would decrease lines and provide more opportunities to
get to the polls.
“Most workers here are blue collar workers,” she said. “They can’t take off hours to vote.”
But the three member board – Lynda Midgett, a Democrat; Chair
Donna Elms, a Republican, and Secretary Carole Warnecki, a Republican –
voted unanimously to accept the same amended plan it had approved last
week over the phone. That schedule expanded early voting available at
the board of elections office in Manteo from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m, rather
than 11 a.m. as the earlier plan.
The extra hours in the morning made it easier to stop to vote before
work or school, and were consistent with when the office was opened for
normal business hours, Barnes said.
But several people in the audience objected to the board voting without
any discussion, and others said that the meeting was held without the
required 48-hour notice. Ross said later that she is reviewing options
about the legal question.
“It’s all illegal,” Odom shouted at the board after the vote.
Responding, Warnecki said that if the plan was not approved, the board
would revert back to the original proposed schedule that offered fewer
hours for early voting. She denied accusations from the audience that
she was issuing a threat, or that the board was being “dictatorial.”
In an interview after the meeting, Barnes and the board members
defended not expanding weekend hours at any location beyond what the
“We haven’t found that it’s been needed,” Warnecki said.
Elms said that it is only the representatives of the League of Women
Voters and Democracy NC – both nonpartisan groups -- that have raised
the issue as part of a statewide campaign. But she said “it’s not a
real problem” in the county.
“We’ve never had voters complain,” Elms said. “They find times to vote.”
Warnecki also said that the board had not been influenced by a recent
email sent out by the head of state Republican Party advising
Republican board members how to limit early voting.
“If we had responded to that, we would have cut hours,” she said.
The board members all said that they represent voters of all political parties in an equal manner.
“We have always served this county as a non-partisan board,” said Midgett, a veteran member and former long-time director.
Voters who cannot get to the polls can request an absentee ballot from
the board of elections or print out an online form. The ballots must be
received by the board of elections office no later than Nov. 1.
Prior to Election Day on Nov. 8, voters will be able to cast
their ballot 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.
Barnes said that with the additional hours, early voting is available for a total of 262.5 hours.
Also called one-stop voting, under the law, the early voting allows
registered voters to appear in person at designated locations starting
the second Thursday before an election and no later than 1 p.m. on the
Saturday before an election.
A recent court ruling restored seven days of early voting that had been
cut by the state’s controversial voter ID law. But the judge’s ruling
left the hours and locations up to the discretion of the local election
Just prior to the law being thrown out, the Dare board had set early
voting hours for Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the
mandated Saturday morning before Election Day at the Board of Elections
office in Manteo. It later expanded hours in the afternoon to 6
p.m. at the satellite locations.
Board of Elections adds early morning hours but not weekends
Dare commissioners decline to take up resolution on early voting hours
Board of Elections tweaks early voting, but not enough for some