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.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/oc-elections-board-struggles-campus-early-voting/
ORANGE COUNT – It’s not likely a late surge at the polls will get the early voting numbers to equal those of two years ago, but more and more people are making their voices heard.
Orange County’s four voting sites saw another uptick as 170 voters cast their ballots Wednesday. However, 2011’s totals averaged to more than 300 voters per day with peaks at more than 500.
There’s still time to check the box with polls open through Saturday.
And, don’t go to the polls without the information. You can find stories and interviews with each of the areas candidates here. You can also find the locations and times at which you can cast your ballot here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voters-cashing-in-on-procrastination/
ORANGE COUNTY – Four days remain in the early voting period, and there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency to get to the polls.
The second and final full week of early voting started stronger than the first with 128 people casting their ballots. However, the total votes still haven’t eclipsed the 1,000 mark.
The Seymour Senior Center is averaging just less than 60 voters per day as the most popular location; Carrboro Town Hall comes in second with half that number.
For a list of polling locations and their times, click here.
You can find all the candidates in the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough municipal elections as well as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board election by clicking here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/no-wait-at-the-polls/
ORANGE COUNTY – One-stop early voting ended its first full week with by far the highest totals yet, but still isn’t getting a strong turnout.
On Friday, 147 people cast their ballots. The Seymour Senior Center remains the most popular location; 81 voters cast their ballot on Friday.
A total of 779 people have voted in Orange County for the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough municipal elections and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. However, WCHL reported last week that just more than 4,000 people participated in the 2011 early voting period.
This is the final week for early voting in Orange County. The polls will also be open on Saturday.
For a list of polling locations and their hours, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-early-voting-sees-small-end-of-week-boost/
ORANGE COUNTY – Early voting saw a dip again on Thursday matching the lowest number of votes in a day for the municipal and school board elections.
Only 97 people turned out on day six keeping the average at just more than 100 per day. The Seymour Senior Center remained the location with the most votes, but the numbers were cut in half as only 37 people cast their ballots there.
Next week is the final week of early voting with the polls open Monday through Saturday.
To see a list of polling locations and the times they’ll be open, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-dips-on-day-6/
ORANGE COUNTY – Day five of Orange County’s early voting saw the most ballots cast yet, but the numbers are still way down.
On Wednesday, 118 people went to the polls taking the total to 535. However, that’s still about half as many people as were voting at this time in 2011.
Polls are open Monday to Friday through November 1, and on Saturday November 2. To read about all the candidates running in the Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough municipal elections and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board election, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/day-5-early-voting-totals-remain-steady/
ORANGE COUNTY – Orange County Board of Elections director, Tracy Reams says voter turnout this year is way down compared to the last municipal and school board elections.
“The last municipal election, the first day of early voting we had 283 that voted early, and the first day for this one we only had 109,” Reams says. “The second day we had 248, and the second day (this year) we only had 97.”
Early voting totals remained steady on Tuesday with 108 voters casting their ballots. The Seymour Senior Center once again assisted 60 voters while Carrboro Town Hall again saw the second most with 27.
In 2011, just more than 4,000 voted in the early election period.
Reams says she’s hopeful that people will follow similar patterns from two years ago as people often procrastinate or use the weekend day to have their vote counted.
“On November 5—that last Saturday that we were open—we had the highest number of voters of all the days that we were open,” Reams says. “We had 580, and the next that’s closest to that, we had 529 on that Friday. We did not break above 400 on any given day except those last two days.”
She says the low numbers mean no lines at the polls. Four locations are open Monday through Friday until November 1 and Saturday November 2.
For a list of the polling locations and their hours, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-early-voting-down-compared-to-2011/
ORANGE COUNTY – Early voting for the municipal and school board elections in Orange County is on pace to net 1,300 votes with the daily average at just more than 100.
On Monday, 103 voters turned in their ballots taking the total up to 309. The Seymour Senior Center remains the most popular location gathering 54 of the 103 on the first day of week two.
The total from the early voting period could well surpass the 1,300 mark as the final day is on Saturday, November 2 allowing those who can’t get away from work to cast their ballot early.
You can find the latest poll numbers as well as interviews with each of the candidates and WCHL’s candidate forums by clicking here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-early-voting-low-but-steady/
ORANGE COUNTY - More than 200 people turned out for the first days of early voting in Orange County.
Four sites are open Monday through Friday until November 1 and Saturday November 2 for the 2013 municipal and school board elections’ early voting.
On Thursday, 109 voters hit the polls while 97 cast their vote on Friday. The Seymour Senior Center is receiving the majority of the votes with 60 cast on Thursday and 42 on Friday.
The polls open again Monday morning at 9:00 a.m. For information on where and when you can cast your ballot, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/early-voting-nets-206-ballots-in-short-week-1/