OC Board of Elections Meets Tuesday to Consider More Early-Voting Hours

The Orange County Board of Elections will hear from the public Tuesday at a meeting that could determine whether early-voting hours for the fall election will be expanded on Saturday, and perhaps extended to Sunday.

“What I’m hoping is that the Board will be receptive to the idea of extending hours on Saturday – currently the hours are from 9 to 1 – to expand those hours just two or three hours so that folks have more time on Saturday in order to vote,” said Chairperson Matt Hughes of the Orange County Democratic Party.

Hughes said that while work obligations may prevent him from attending, he hopes that a fellow member of the Orange Democrats will be there at the Board of Elections to deliver a petition to expand voting hours.

Hughes said that the three-member Orange County Board of Elections, made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, is also being asked to add Sunday to the early-voting period.

“There are a lot of families where folks work six days a week,” said Hughes. “Sunday’s the only day they have off as a family to go vote.

He said there are also religious accommodations to consider.

“Particularly those of the Jewish faith, who work Monday through Friday, and then Saturday is their Sabbath,” said Hughes. “And they would like to continue to respect the Sabbath, but also exercise the right to vote.”

The early voting period for the upcoming election begins October 23 and ends November 1.

The Orange County Board of Elections is located at 208 South Cameron Street in Hillsborough. The meeting begins at 11 a.m.

You can add your name to the early-voting petition here.


Orange County Early Voting Meeting; Compass Center Volunteers

Now that the primaries are done, it’s time to start planning for the general election in November – and that means figuring out where to locate early voting sites.

The Orange County Board of Elections is holding a public meeting on Tuesday, July 22, to hear from the public on the hours and locations for the 2014 general election. Head to the meet and let officials know where you want to see early-voting sites – and when you want them open.

The meeting will take place at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Board of Elections office at 208 S. Cameron Street in Hillsborough.

If you’re looking to do good in your community, consider volunteering for the Compass Center for Women and Families.

The Compass Center is accepting applications now for people interested in working their 24-hour domestic violence hotline, being First Responders for individuals who walk into the center’s office, or being Community Educators and representing the Compass Center at events and presentations around town.

For more information, you can email resources@compassctr.org – or visit them online at CompassCTR.org for more details.


Early Voting For Sheriff Sees Small Hike

Early voting numbers saw a small spike Wednesday as 161 people cast their votes to decide the new Orange County sheriff.

The Board of Elections Headquarters remains the only location that will be accepting votes throughout this early voting process due to the notably low turnout for runoffs.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell were separated by about 60 votes in the May primary, and neither eclipsed the 40 percent mark.

The polls are open every day this week from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. as well as Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

All 44 precincts open July 15, Election Day, from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The Orange County Board of Elections can be found at 208 South Cameron Street in Hillsborough near Orange County Financial Services.


141 Vote Early For Sheriff Tuesday

Early voting numbers continued their downward trend on day three with 141 people casting their ballots for Orange County 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.


Day One: Nearly 300 Vote Early For Sheriff

Nearly 300 people cast their vote on the first day of early voting, showing the one-race election carries as much importance as you might expect.

Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell are in a runoff for Orange County Sheriff. 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.

Comparing day one of this early voting period to day one of the Primary in May, 180 fewer voters cast their ballot on Thursday. The polls were closed Friday due to the July 4 holiday.

The polls open again Monday at 9:00 a.m.; they’ll be opened each day this week 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.


Early Voting Update

More than 1,000 people cast their ballots early on Monday and Tuesday, and the numbers continue to rise.

The Orange County Board of Elections headquarters continues to be the most popular location as more than 215 votes were cast there each day. On Monday, 587 total votes were cast in Orange County while Tuesday saw 591 voters make their picks.

The North Carolina Hillel Center has been a point of focus as it is the closest location to students. The numbers have only eclipsed 50 votes one day, but it’s not the worst location this early-voting season. Master’s Garden has not seen more than 23 votes cast in any single day and has not yet eclipsed the century mark.

Early voting continues through Saturday. For location information, click here.


Early Voting Check-In

Nearly 700 people cast early ballots Friday and Saturday continuing to show that the popularity of this primary election is high.

After 472 people opened the polls on Thursday, 371 people turned out Friday and another 321 turned out Saturday to make their picks.

Many primary elections this year in Orange County will decide the general election due to the fact that few republicans are on the ticket in the Democrat-heavy county. For example, six democrats are running for Orange County Sheriff.

The Board of Elections headquarters in Hillsborough took over as the most popular location with 231 votes during the two-day span.

Monday not only starts the first full week of early voting, but Saturday is the final day to cast your ballot early since recent legislation cut the early voting length down to nine days.


Nearly 500 Cast Ballots In OC Thursday

Thursday marked the first day of early voting for the May 6 primary, and in Orange County, 472 residents cast their ballots at five polling locations.

The Seymour Center in Chapel Hill was the busiest site by a narrow margin: 134 voters cast ballots there, while 132 cast their ballots at the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough. 104 voters cast ballots at Carrboro Town Hall, and 23 people voted at Master’s Garden Preschool in Hillsborough.

The most closely-watched statistic may be for the polling site at NC Hillel, where 79 residents cast ballots Thursday. Located slightly off campus, NC Hillel was the site chosen by elections officials partly to accommodate student voters—though some argued that an on-campus location would have made it easier for students to vote.

The vote count for Thursday greatly surpasses the early-voting total for the first day of early voting in the 2010 primary—when only 114 people cast ballots at two locations. (One of those locations was Morehead Planetarium on campus, where 56 people cast votes.) Nearly 1300 voters cast ballots on the first full day of early voting for the 2012 primary, but that was a presidential election year.


NC Approves Five Early Voting Sites For Orange County

The State Board of Elections has officially approved Orange County’s early voting sites, including one close to- but not on- UNC campus.

Concerns about accessibility led members of the Orange County Board of Elections to take Ram’s Head Dining Hall off the list of possible sites this year.

Board members examined other options for on-campus voting, but ultimately settled on the North Carolina Hillel Center on West Cameron Avenue. While that’s close to UNC, some worry its off-campus location will not appeal to student voters.

A plan to use Cobb Residence Hall as an additional on-campus voting site failed to gain traction with the majority of the local board members.

The sites approved for early voting are the Hillel Center and the Seymour Senior Center in Chapel Hill, the Board of Elections office and the Master’s Garden Preschool in Hillsborough, and Carrboro Town Hall.

Recent changes to state law mean early voting will only run for nine days this year and registration during early voting is no longer allowed. The deadline to register to vote is Friday, April 11.

You can download registration forms from the Orange County Board of Elections website, or pick them up at locations around the county:

Board of Elections Office – 208 S. Cameron Street, Hillsborough

Carrboro Town Hall – 301 W. Main St, Carrboro

Carrboro Cybrary, Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St, Carrboro

Chapel Hill Town Hall – 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill Public Library – 100 Library Dr, Chapel Hilll

Davis Library, UNC-CH Campus

Orange County Public Library – 137 W. Margaret Ln, Hillsborough

McDougle School Library, Old Fayetteville Rd., Carrboro

Persons having business with the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles may register to vote with the DMV


OC Elections Board Struggles With Campus Early Voting

CHAPEL HILL- Though the Orange County Board of Elections is struggling to find a site for on-campus early voting, members are adamant they’re not trying to limit student turnout.

Board Chair Kathy Knight says the three members are focused the logistics of the state’s new voting laws, not partisan politics.

“We are going out of our way to try to keep something close to campus,” says Knight. “We have other sites we could go to, but they’re too far off campus. We have put out to the university, to the students, that we are trying to come up with a place that is accessible to students and the public. So where that came up, that we don’t want it for the students, I don’t know.”

Ram’s Head Dining Hall was last year’s on-campus early-voting site, but Knight says it is not an option moving forward.

“We have problems with Ram’s Head,”says Knight. “We have to have so many hours and they all have to be open the same hours. You have ball games on Saturdays, which means we wouldn’t be able to be open because we wouldn’t have the parking. So there’s more than one problem with Ram’s Head.”

The Board is trying to comply with the provisions of House Bill 598 passed by the Republican-led General Assembly last summer.

Under the new law, the length of the early voting period is shortened from 17 to nine days, but sites are required to remain open the same total number of hours.  All sites in the county must have identical schedules and provide the option of curbside voting.

With Ram’s Head out of the running, the Board is looking at the North Carolina Hillel Center as a possible site. Past early-voting locations such as Morehead Planetarium and University Square are no longer available due to recent or ongoing renovations.

The Board’s struggle to find a spot for on-campus early voting has drawn scrutiny from those who say Republicans elsewhere are actively working to limit student turnout.

Matt Hughes is the Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party. He says he’s seen a statewide push to disenfranchise young voters.

“It’s undeniable that youth voters tend to vote Democratic and I think that’s at play,” says Hughes. “I think there are those- not our Board of Elections staff- who would like to see the youth vote curtailed and I think there is a coordinated effort across the state to do just that. It’s evident whether you’re talking about Watauga County, Forsyth County or down east in Elizabeth City.”

Last August the Watauga Board of Elections shortened early voting to just four days and removed a polling place on Appalachian State campus.

But Hughes says he’s not sure that’s the aim of Orange County board members.

“I don’t believe that our local Board of Elections is seeking to curtail the youth vote, but we do need to make sure that we’re offering good customer service to our voters in making elections more accessible,” says Hughes.

A recent change in the make-up of the Orange County elections board is fanning the flames of suspicion among some local Democrats, as the three-member board is now Republican-dominated for the first time in twenty years.

That’s because local boards of elections are appointed by the state Board of Elections, and those appointments are made by the Governor. Currently all 100 county elections boards are comprised of one Democrat and two Republicans.

Jaime Cox is the lone Democrat on the Orange County board. He also rejects the notion that local board members are trying to limit student access to the ballot.

“We have a strong history of bipartisan cooperation in the county and I see that continuing this year,” says Cox.

But he acknowledges that reaching out to student voters while accommodating the new rules is proving difficult.

“It is a bit like piecing a puzzle together, trying to find a site that is close in proximity, but that also allows us to provide curbside voting as well as parking for members of the community that are not affiliated with campus or who don’t get around by walking or bicycle or bus,” says Cox.

Both Knight and Cox say they need help from the public to identify potential new sites for early voting on or near UNC’s campus, and with a mid-March deadline to submit those sites to the state Board of Elections for approval, time is running out.

The Orange County Board of Elections will meet February 4 to narrow down its list of early voting sites for the May primary.