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The Daily Tar Heel

Despite Glitches, No Excuse Voting Deemed a Success

Despite some legal problems, state officials are calling No Excuse absentee voting a success. The new program, aimed at increasing voter turnout, ends today.

No Excuse Voting allows people to vote any time during the three weeks preceding the Nov. 7 election. Polling places, including one located at the Morehead Planetarium, will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. today. Any voter registered in Orange County can vote at the Morehead Planetarium.

Gary Bartlett, N.C. Board of Elections director, said the program was successful, despite a shortage of voting equipment and a lack of people to run poll sites.

Bartlett said that more money - between $20,000 to $30,000 per site - was needed to properly fund the program.

But not everyone supports No Excuse Voting.

A lawsuit recently was brought against No Excuse Voting, claiming the program was unconstitutional based on a provision stipulating that the president be elected only on the first Tuesday of November. The lawsuit was dropped, though, because documents in the case were handled incorrectly.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said it was ironic that Republicans initiated the lawsuit because more Republicans than Democrats have taken advantage of No Excuse Voting.

Kinnaird proposed the program in the N.C. General Assembly in 1998. "Republicans tried to stop the bill the legislature, but I understand that more Republicans have voted," she said. "It just shows that everyone wants the opportunity to vote. It's not a partisan issue."

Bartlett said he was pleased with voter turnout.

"We knew it would be busy, but we had no idea that it would be impacted so greatly," Bartlett said.

Although no official figures are available, he said more than 200,000 voters participated at 158 No Excuse poll sites, one of which was located near the campus of each UNC-system school and at several community colleges.

Carolyn Thomas, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, said the Morehead Planetarium was chosen due to its proximity to many potential voters. "We were trying to find a location centered around the population," Thomas said. "Students can walk there easily."

No Excuse Voting has been especially popular among college students. Reyna Walters, student coordinator for the $3.1 billion higher education bond campaign, said that in working with students she has seen an overwhelmingly positive response to both No Excuse Voting and the bond.

The bond will finance capital improvements across the UNC-system and at the state's community colleges.

"I have been working with a lot of campuses, making sure that they focus on voter registration," she said.

But Kinnaird said the program's success bodes well for the future. "It's been very successful, and I think it shows that there is a great need for it," she said.

"We need to continue to expand the opportunities to vote."

The State & National Editor can be reached at

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