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Commission asks for shorter voting times

Voters across the country should not have to wait more than 30 minutes to cast their ballot, a bipartisan commission appointed by President Barack Obama recommended this month.

And with new voting laws in place for North Carolina, counties in the state are considering measures to reduce waiting times.

The Commission on Election Administration released several policy recommendations last week to simplify the voting process, including expanding online voter registration and shorter voting wait times.

In North Carolina, election officials are looking to shorten lines on Election Day to avoid the problems faced by Florida in 2012 after the state shortened its early voting period, said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy N.C.

Voters waited for four to five hours in the swing state to cast their vote — and some voters were still in line as GOP candidate Mitt Romney conceded the race.

Obama won Florida by less than one percent.

In North Carolina, early voting will be shortened from 17 to 10 days, starting with the 2014 midterm elections.

The shortened early voting period has forced precincts to consider alternatives in order to keep lines at polls short on Election Day.

Hall said many counties will consider opening more polling sites and keeping them open for longer hours during the early voting period.

But George Gilbert, retired director of elections for Guilford County, said longer hours during early voting will not alleviate the congestion of polls on Election Day.

He said public policy should be based on what people will do, not what they ought to do.

Voters will not show up at odd hours, and the president’s expectations might be unrealistic, Gilbert said.

“To say that they should never have to wait longer than 30 minutes is not recognizing the reality of elections,” he said.

In the 2014 midterm elections, North Carolina voters will be asked at the polls if they have an acceptable photo ID. They will be able to vote regardless, but in 2016, photo IDs will be required to vote.

Voters who do not have a valid ID in 2014 will be given information by election officials on how to obtain one.

Gilbert said opening more early voting sites would be an effective measure to cut down on wait times at the polls.

UNC’s on-campus voting location at Rams Head Dining Hall will be debated Feb. 4 by the Orange County Board of Elections.

But students said voting wait times have not been a problem on UNC’s campus, or other voting sites across the state.

Ethan Butler, a UNC senior, said his voting experience was easy and straightforward in 2012.

“I got in and out in five minutes,” he said. “It was actually really streamlined.”

UNC freshman Bronwyn Fadem voted in the 2012 presidential elections and the 2013 municipal elections in Rutherford County.

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“Both times I went and voted, I had no problem at all,” she said.