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The Daily Tar Heel

Voter registration deadline extended in 36 N.C. counties

Voter registration on campus, 9/1/16
Voter registration on campus, 9/1/16

The deadline to register to vote has been extended until Wednesday in 36 eastern North Carolina counties due to disruptions from Hurricane Matthew. 

The deadline was extended three business days in counties receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the hurricane. The deadline had originally been set for last Friday. Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens ordered the extension. 

Orange County was not included in the extension, but same-day registration during the early voting period will still be available in the county. 

“A lot of people were told to evacuate as the hurricane approached North Carolina, and there are still a lot of people without power,” said Dave Miranda, spokesperson for the N.C. Democratic Party. “Many people are unable to return to their homes, and those people should have an opportunity to register to vote.” 

Jen Jones, spokesperson for Democracy NC, said the extension helps those who were unable to register due to the timing of the storm and post office delays. She said many postal workers were unable to commute to work, and post offices in some counties were flooded. 

"There are still barriers to voting even without the confusion related to the new voting rules, or because this is a hot presidential election and a lot of people who have never voted before may be heading out to vote," Jones said.

Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the N.C. State Board of Elections, said local boards of elections will be on a time crunch to process voter registrations this week as early voting begins Thursday. 

“Those counties will have to process voter registrations much closer to the time when early voting starts than they otherwise would have,” Gannon said. “One-stop early voting starts this coming Thursday, and with the voter registration ending Wednesday night, that will require those counties to try to process those voter registrations as quickly as they can.”

Gannon said this could potentially cause problems at the polls if those who register late are not processed by the time they vote. He said voters can continue to register on-site at polling locations throughout the early voting period.

Jones said Democracy NC is offering help to those affected by the storm.

“In eastern North Carolina, we’re working with people on the ground to organize and to get people to march us to the polls, to get people rides to the polls if they need them, so that if they have been inconvenienced by Hurricane Matthew we can help them in whatever way we can,” she said.

Gannon said the State Board of Elections is working to make voting run as smoothly as possible despite the circumstances.

“I think, overall, Hurricane Matthew probably will have an impact in some areas where the flooding and damage are the worst,” he said. “We’re working on plans and finding alternate sites if the sites that were previously determined aren’t available, and we’re working with county boards of elections on those kinds of things.”


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