Two Additional Orange County Early Voting Plans Being Submitted to State Board of Elections

As it turns out, the majority and minority early-voting plans presented at the Orange County Board of Elections meeting last week will not be the only ones going before the state board for ultimate approval.

The local board had a 2-1 split when discussing plans at its meeting last week that was attended by a crowd of Orange County residents asking to extend early-voting hours. Because there was no unanimous approval, the dissenting member is allowed to submit a minority plan to be considered by the state board.

Neither plan included Sunday hours, much to the dismay of many of the attendees, but the majority plan included five sites for early voting and a total of 569.5 hours.

Republican board member Bob Randall objected to the compromise between the board’s other Republican member and only Democrat. The plan Randall is planning to submit to the state board includes 530 hours of early voting.

But now two other plans will be submitted to the state board, local Board of Elections director Tracy Reams confirmed late Tuesday.

Reams said a miscalculation of early-voting hours had occurred as the compromise was reached at the end of last week’s meeting, which exceeded two hours. She said no other compromise could be reached on another plan and, therefore, the two members who originally agreed to the compromise would be submitting their own early-voting plans to the state board.

Local board chair Kathy Knight is submitting her plan that calls for 545 hours and Jamie Cox, the lone Democrat on the board, is submitting a plan with 739 hours of early voting, including on Sundays.

Reams said the two new plans would be submitted to the state board by Thursday’s deadline.

Local Boards of Elections across North Carolina have been frantically putting together revised early-voting plans with Election Day quickly approaching. The revisions were forced after the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s Voter ID law last month.

While it’s commonly known as the Voter ID law, another provision limited early voting to 10 days. When the federal court struck that provision down, boards had to gather in order to approve a new 17-day early-voting plan.

At the meeting last week, several Orange County Commissioners said that the county would allocate whatever funding was needed to offer an extended early-voting schedule.

Republican members of local boards have received extra attention when approving new plans after several Raleigh media outlets obtained copies of a memo from North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse reminding board members that “as partisan republican appointees they have duty to consider republican points of view” on early voting. That memo went on to remind board members “there is no requirement to be open on the weekends except for the last Saturday.” The memo also encouraged boards to not include Sunday voting.

When striking down the Voter ID law, the federal court criticized the law because the “new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The court also said it could only conclude the legislature “enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

There is no word on when the state board will hold a hearing for the four Orange County plans to be considered.

The original compromise will still go in as the preferred plan because it was voted on in an open meeting, but the three board members will have a chance to vouch for their individual plans as well.

Orange County Democratic Party chair Matt Hughes issued the following statement after the news of the additional plans was made public.

“It is disappointing that a majority of Elections Board members would support alternative plans that could potentially reduce the number of hours that were approved just last week, especially after a good faith compromise vote in full view of the public. The Orange County Democratic Party will be submitting a letter to the State Board of Elections asking them to consider Democratic Member Cox’s plan expanding the number of sites and hours for the 2016 General Election, consistent the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling on North Carolina’s election laws, the increasing number of Orange County citizens choosing to cast their ballots during the early voting period, and also the wishes of nearly 100 attendees at last week’s meeting.”

http://chapelboro.com/featured/two-additional-orange-county-early-voting-plans-being-submitted-to-state-board-of-elections

Orange County Board of Elections Meeting Tuesday to Discuss Early Voting Revisions

The denial of the Voter ID law a few weeks ago has created more changes that need to be put in to place before the beginning of early voting.

Like many other counties, Orange County is having to reevaluate their plans for early voting procedures. The Orange County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon to vote on the changes to be made.

Advocates voiced concern at a recent meeting of the Guilford County Board of Elections after it was feared the board would remove some previously selected sites when creating a new 17-day early-voting plan. The board ultimately voted to maintain the sites in question.

Orange County Elections Director Tracy Reams said planning for this election has been “a moving target, up until now.”

“What we are doing now is going in with our precinct supplies and we are taking out anything that relates to having to require a photo ID. We are going to be working on printing new manuals and making sure that we train our precinct officials since they will no longer have to ask for a photo ID,” Reams said.

Reams said the board is ready to put things into place to make sure all of the precinct officials and voters are educated about the new regulations to make sure everything is consistent among every voting location.

“We’re hoping that due to the elimination of that one step, that we’ll be able to process our voters more efficiently,” Reams said.

This meeting to discuss the changes of the early voting procedures will be open to the public. The board welcomes any comments or concerns from residents before they vote on the changes. It’s expected that voting advocates will be asking for Sunday voting locations once again, but that request has been voted down in the past.

The meeting will be held at the Board of Elections office at 3:30 p.m.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/orange-county-board-of-elections-meeting-tuesday-to-discuss-early-voting-revisions

Orange County Gears Up For Early Voting

Early voting begins Thursday and runs through November 1, but the early voting period will be a week shorter than previous years due to a controversial election reform bill signed by the governor in 2013.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld provisions of the new law that ban same-day registration and voting out of precinct in N.C. That ruling came just a week after a lower court stuck down the provisions.

But Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, says despite the back and forth in the courts, her office has not seen an increase in calls from confused voters.

“We’ve gotten very few calls as far as voter confusion on early voting. The calls that we’ve been receiving are more asking the hours and locations.”

Nor has Reams seen an increase in requests for absentee ballots.

“We have mailed 1,000 absentee ballots out already, but that is pretty comparable to mid-term elections, so I really can’t say that there are a whole lot more than what we’ve seen in past elections.”

Voters have until 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 28 to request an absentee ballot in the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough.

Orange County residents can visit one of five early voting sites:

Board of Elections
208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough
Thursday & Friday, October 23 & October 24, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 25, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Monday – Friday, October 27 – October 31, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 1, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Carrboro Town Hall
301 W. Main St, Carrboro

Seymour Senior Center
2551 Homestead Rd, Chapel Hill

North Carolina Hillel
210 W. Cameron Ave, Chapel Hill

Master’s Garden Preschool
(Former St. Mary’s School) 7500 Schley Rd, Hillsborough

The above 4 sites have the following hours:
Thursday, October 23, Noon – 7 p.m.
Friday, October 24, Noon – 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 25, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Monday – Thursday, October 27 – October 30, Noon – 7 p.m.
Friday, October 31, Noon – 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 1, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m

All polling sites will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/orange-county-gears-early-voting

US Supreme Court Stops NC Same-Day Registration, Out-of-Precinct Voting

A United States Supreme Court ruling means North Carolina voters won’t be able to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day, and voters won’t be able to vote out of their precincts.

“We do want to encourage anyone out there who has not registered to make sure that they register,” says Orange County’s Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams.

The deadline to register is Friday. Reams says registrations are considered “on time” if they are postmarked by Friday.

The Supreme Court halted the ruling of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. On October 1, the 4th Circuit Court reinstated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. Before October 1 both were not allowed.

Reams says getting the word out regarding this change in election laws has been a top priority.

“How we’re going about getting this information out is through press releases and media such as yours,” Reams says.

She says word of mouth is one key way to share this information.

“When people come in here to register, we let them know Friday is the deadline, and ‘do you know of anybody else that needs to register, maybe family, friends, neighbors?’,” Reams says.

Early voting starts October 23, and November 4 is election day.

For more information, and to download a voter registration form, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/us-supreme-court-stops-nc-day-registration-precinct-voting

Early Voting For Sheriff Concludes

Early voting is closed for Orange County’s next sheriff as 298 residents cast their ballots on Friday, and 282 voted on Saturday taking the total to 1,519 for early voting.

Saturday, Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin told WCHL that he organized about 100 citizens to join him in voting early, and led the caravan from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are in the runoff for the position after the two were separated by just more than 60 votes in the May 6 Primary. Since neither received more than 40 percent of the vote, the second-place finisher—Caldwell—was able to call for the runoff.

Only the Board of Elections Headquarters took votes in the early voting process because of the historically low turnout for runoffs. However, all 44 precincts open on Election Day, Tuesday, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Candidate Profiles

Charles Blackwood

David Caldwell

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-sheriff-concludes

Early Voting Thursday Check-In

Voting numbers remained flat Thursday as 156 Orange County residents cast their ballots early for the next sheriff.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are in a runoff for the position after the two were separated by just more than 60 votes in the May 6 Primary. Since neither received more than 40 percent of the vote, the second-place finisher—Caldwell—was able to call for the runoff.

Only the Board of Elections Headquarters is taking votes in the early voting process because of the historically low turnout for runoffs. All 44 precincts will be open on Election Day, July 15.

The polls open each day this week from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Election Day is July 15, and all the polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Orange County Board of Elections is located at 208 South Cameron Street in Hillsborough next to Orange County Financial Services.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-thursday-check

Early Voting Day 2: Numbers Down

The second day of early voting saw a dip, but nearly 200 people cast their ballots for Orange County’s next sheriff.

Charles Blackwood

Charles Blackwood

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are in a runoff for the position. Because no Republicans filed before the May 6 Primary, one of those men will take the place of Lindy Pendergrass, who has served in that role for 32 years.

Only the Board of Elections Headquarters is taking votes in the early voting process because of the historically low turnout for runoffs. All 44 precincts will be open on Election Day, July 15.

David Caldwell

David Caldwell

The polls open each day this week from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Election Day is July 15, and all the polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Orange County Board of Elections is located at 208 South Cameron Street in Hillsborough next to Orange County Financial Services.

Untitled

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-day-2-numbers

Sheriff Runoff: Early Voting Begins Thursday

Early voting for Orange County’s next sheriff begins Thursday, but you have to travel to Hillsborough to make your pick.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are competing in the second primary—or runoff—election to succeed 32-year sheriff Lindy Pendergrass. Neither candidate received 40 percent of the vote, so second-place finisher, Caldwell, requested the runoff.

Only one location will be open for the runoff election: the Orange County Board of Elections headquarters in Hillsborough. Director Tracy Reams says that’s the way it’s always done for early voting, since turnout for a runoff is historically low.

All 44 precincts will be open on Election Day, July 15; the polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Early voting begins Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.; the polls are closed Friday for the July 4 holiday; next Monday through Friday, the polls are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday, July 12, the polls are open from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

For more information on the runoff election for Orange County Sheriff, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/sheriff-runoff-early-voting-begins-thursday

OC Board Of Elections Director Lays Out Voting Changes

CHAPEL HILL- Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams came before Orange County Commissioners last week to update officials on the many recent changes to state election law.

All voters must provide photo ID by 2016, Reams said, but the process of educating voters about the new law will start next year.

“We will be required to ask people ‘Do you have ID?’” said Reams. “They won’t be required to provide it in 2014, but we have to ask if they have it. And if they do not they will have to sign a declaration to let us know they do not have it.”

While the voter ID law has received much attention both locally and nationally, Reams says other, less publicized provisions of House Bill 589 will have a significant impact on local voters.

Beginning in January of 2014, a new rule prohibits voters who go to the wrong precinct from casting provisional ballots. Reams said all voters who ask will be handed provisional ballots, but the votes won’t be counted.

“If a voter went to another precinct and they were not assigned that precinct, they were allowed to vote a provisional ballot,” said Reams. “With the enactment of House Bill 589, if anyone votes outside their correct precinct we cannot count that ballot for any contest at all.”

And Reams said the timing of North Carolina’s presidential primary is now wholly dependent on when South Carolinians go to the polls.

“We will now be required to follow what South Carolina does. If they hold their primary prior to the first Monday in May, then we have to hold our primary the Tuesday following them,” said Reams. “The past four to six primaries at least, they’ve held their primary in January or February. That tells us that more than likely we’re going to have a primary in February or March. So we will probably be early voting over the Christmas holidays.”

Though it’s too early to say how much that will cost, she told commissioners the expense will be significant.

“It will be an additional cost for the county, because we’ll have to hold a presidential primary in addition to all the other primaries that will be held, as traditionally, in May.”

In addition, the option to vote a straight party ticket has now been removed from ballots, and the process for requesting and filling out absentee ballots has changed.

Commissioner Mark Dorosin called the new rules an effort by the Republican-led General Assembly to disenfranchise voters.

“Clearly what’s happening here is an attempt to suppress voter turnout,” said Dorosin. “We had a very high turnout in early voting in the last two presidential elections, so that’s been cut. We had a tremendous amount of same-day registrations, so that’s been cut.”

Board Chair Barry Jacobs thanked the Orange County Board of Elections for what he called their bi-partisan spirit of cooperation. Currently the three-member board is comprised of one Democrat and two Republicans, as appointed by the state Board of Elections.

In light of the many changes that will impact local voters, Jacobs encouraged the board to seek extra funding for voter outreach.

“If you need more assistance, if the Board of Elections thinks of ways you would like to be more creative to try and reach voters, please tell Miss Reams and have her ask it as part of the budget process,” said Jacobs.  “There is nothing more important in a democracy than people having the opportunity to cast their ballot.”

You can read the full text of House Bill 598 here:

http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2013/Bills/House/PDF/H589v9.pdf

And the report presented to the Board of Commissioners here:

http://www.co.orange.nc.us/occlerks/130917.pdf

Orange County Board of Elections website: http://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/index.asp

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-board-of-elections-director-lays-out-voting-changes

Experts Say Watauga Elections Board Broke No Law

WINSTON-SALEM – Experts in government law say the chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections broke no state law when he asked that a heated discussion during a board meeting be dropped from the minutes.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that UNC School of Government Professor Frayda Bluestein said the board can limit the detail in the official minutes as it sees fit.

After board chairman Luke Eggers learned that a first draft of the meeting minutes contained a description of the discussion at the Aug. 12 meeting, he requested that it not be used.

Board member Kathleen Campbell said the parts of the earlier meeting erased from the minutes include her question on how much money would be saved by consolidating precincts, eliminating a polling location at Appalachian State University.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/experts-say-watauga-elections-board-broke-no-law