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Wednesday February 1st

Early voting plans in five N.C. counties are contested

<p>Orange County has recently experienced a surge in new voter registrations as North Carolina’s primary approaches.</p>
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Orange County has recently experienced a surge in new voter registrations as North Carolina’s primary approaches.

If granted, the injunction would require the State Board of Elections to modify early voting plans in five counties — Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Nash and New Hanover.

The request would alter newly released early voting schedules, which came as a result of a July ruling on the state voter ID law. The ruling restored an additional week of early voting in N.C. elections.

The group’s request said the State Board of Elections violated the terms of the July ruling. Its main demands involve the inclusion of additional early voting locations and hours in the five counties.

Jen Jones, spokesperson at Democracy NC, supports the changes.

“Any reduction in early voting hours or locations that have been used in the past, like what has happened in Mecklenburg and Nash and Forsyth and Guilford, is going to hurt voters and make their wait times longer,” she said.

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party, said the request is unwarranted.

“I think it is a real insult to the people of North Carolina and our laws,” he said. “These are complicated issues that are negotiated and kneaded out by local boards of election.”

County governments decide early voting plans via a unanimous agreement by three county Board of Elections members: two members of the majority party and one member of the minority party. If local board members cannot agree on an early voting plan, the state board has the opportunity to create a hybrid plan.

“The reasons we let locals decide this is because what’s right for Charlotte isn’t necessarily what’s right for Shallotte, and what’s right for Raleigh is not necessarily what’s right for Ramseur,” Woodhouse said.

Nash, New Hanover and Mecklenburg, along with 30 other counties in the state, were non-unanimous at the county level and came up before the state board Sept. 8, said Josh Lawson, general counsel for the State Board of Elections. He said each county went through an extensive hearings process before their respective early voting plans were approved.

“I think that on our level, we definitely considered it very, very fully, and the plans that have been put in place as a result have existed now for quite some time,” he said.

Jones said the requests may have come in too late — early voting is set to start Oct. 20.

“The best way to do that is to educate voters on where they can go and when they can go during the newly expanded 17-day period instead of trying to overturn those hours and locations and further confuse voters,” she said.

Lawson said the court has ordered the State Board of Elections to issue a response by Friday at 3 p.m.

“We are going to be addressing these things, but as an agency, we have certainly quite a bit of confidence in the fact that we have looked over these,” he said.

@beccaheilman

state@dailytarheel.com



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