As election season approaches, UNC students will no longer be able to vote early at an on-campus location.
Morehead Planetarium previously housed early voting for students and staff at UNC. But due to new limitations, suite 133-G in University Square off West Franklin Street will be used instead.
The decision to move the site off campus has caused contention, but officials say it is ultimately beyond their control.
“I wish no one would oppose it,” said Tracy Reams, the director for Orangy County Board of Elections.
“They had to convert the space we were using to accommodate classrooms, and when they could no longer accommodate us, we couldn’t have early voting there anymore.”
Linda Convissor, director of local relations at UNC, said when she and Erin Schuettpelz, director of state relations and communications at UNC, looked for places to replace the Morehead site, no other place on campus met the criteria.
“We looked for another site, but the University was not able to provide us with a place for early voting,” Reams said.
For a location to be considered, it has to be handicap accessible and available for the 2-to 3-week early voting period. It must also have adequate security, parking and hard-line internet access.
After the Board of Elections failed to acquire a campus location, they turned to town officials, who gave them access to the University Square site.
Schuettpelz said the process of finding the new location took about two weeks in August.
“I think it is a great example of the University working quickly to find the best solution possible,” she said.
Nathan Westmoreland, president of UNC Young Democrats, said he is opposed to the move and hopes officials will reconsider in future elections.
“The process was not very transparent, and they didn’t keep students in the loop as well as I thought they should have,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to convince students to walk over there to vote.”
According to the Orange County Board of Elections, just 416 people voted in the 18-to-24 demographic out of a total of 7,737 people in the last municipal election for Chapel Hill.
College Republicans President Greg Steele said he was also disappointed with the move.
“It was always convenient,” Steele said. I volunteered at Morehead for two years.”
James Barrett, a 34-year-old resident who is running for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board, said he hopes the off-campus location doesn’t discourage students from voting early.
“I hope students will walk a bit farther,” he said. “If you’re going for lunch at Franklin Street, it isn’t too far at all.”
The first opportunity for early voting is Oct. 20 to Oct. 21.?
Contact the City editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.