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Orange County voters discuss extending early voting to Sunday

The lack of a microphone was only the first time someone complained about not being heard at the Orange County Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday. 

People who assembled to give their opinions on adding early voting to Sundays were disappointed to hear they could not speak outside of the allotted time, especially when their opinion conflicted with others. 

One common argument for Sunday early voting was to allow members of the Jewish community, who observe Sabbath on Saturday, to vote on the weekend instead of during the busy work week. 

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow said it was important to accommodate the schedules of as many residents of Orange County as possible, including those who could not take advantage of other early voting times. 

UNC Student Body President Andrew Powell made a statement as well, advocating for the extension of hours into Sunday, when students at the University can find time to vote. He also said he appreciated the voting site on campus at North Carolina Hillel, and said extending hours wasn't a political stance. 

"It's more of a common sense decision," said Powell. 

Opponents to the decision most often cited the abundance of early voting that had gone unused to that point. 

Among the opponents of Sunday voting were volunteers at voting sites, who said they would have to work 19 days straight if one Sunday was added to the voting schedule. The volunteers said adding an extra day would be a waste of time because turnout for early voting is low anyway. 

Tracy Reams, director of the Board of Elections, said the lack of crowded voting sites was due to the five different locations the county provides. 

"I am proud to say that we have not experienced the long lines other counties have," Reams said. 

After public statements ended, the board discussed changing hours during the week to give people more time to get to the polls and voted to extend weekday hours to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., one hour longer than the previous time of 9 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Attendees on both sides of the issue were not allowed to comment during the board's discussion, and the execution of democracy was called into question. 

A motion by Secretary Jamie Cox to add a Sunday early voting day to the schedule was not seconded by chairwoman Kathy Knight or board member Ana Kuhn. 

Members of the public called this into question and asked for a vote to ensure the outcome. The movement failed with two votes against. 

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