The Orange County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to expand early voting hours for the upcoming fall election.
But the three-member board did not add as many hours as more than 60 supporters that showed up at the Board of Elections meeting in Hillsborough would have liked.
Tuesday’s public hearing at the Orange County Board of Elections got heated at times between supporters of expanding early voting hours to Sunday, and opponents — particularly, Northern Orange County resident Bill Knight.
“Voting is a constitutional right, but it is also a privilege that was paid for by millions of Americans that shed their blood for it!” shouted Knight at one point, as several in attendance retorted with “It’s a right.”
“It’s a constitutional right that was earned!” he shot back, as Board of Elections Chair Kathy Knight tried to restore order by yelling “Stop!”
A few others in attendance that spoke against extending early voting hours to Sunday, and three of them said they were with the Orange County Republican Party.
One of them, Daniel Ashley, accused the nonprofit group Blueprint NC of organizing the movement to extend hours, in an attempt to take down the GOP leadership put in place by North Carolina voters.
Others argued that the low voter turnout for elections didn’t justify spending taxpayer money for more voting days. That argument was supported by two one-stop poll workers.
But the Sunday-voting opponents were overwhelmingly outnumbered in the room. The enthusiasm shown by people who wanted Sunday voting was noted by Jamie Cox, the lone Democrat on the three-member board.
“I am concerned about not having Sunday hours because of the overwhelming support that that has received from a very broad and diverse segment – many, many segments of our community.”
Some elected office-holders were there to speak up for the Sunday option, including Lee Storrow from the Chapel Hill Town Council; Randee Haven-O’Donnell from the Carrboro Board of Aldermen; and Jenn Weaver of the Hillsborough Town Board.
UNC Student Body President Andrew Powell was there to speak for students.
“Many students are incredibly busy during the weekday – working to pay for college, working on independent research projects, and extracurricular activities; going to classes,” said Powell. “On the weekends, particularly Sunday, they have less direct obligations.”
But the opponents prevailed.
Both Republicans on the Board – Knight and Ana Kuhn – rejected a motion by Cox to add Sunday, October 26th as an additional voting day.
Knight later explained that adding Sunday would be unfair to Board of Elections staff, and poll workers.
Next, Cox made a motion to extend voting by one hour on Saturday, October 25th.
He also moved that the Orange County Board of Elections location on South Cameron Street should be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays during the early-voting period. That motion carried unanimously.
The three members also agreed to use the same five voting sites that were used during the primary: The Seymour Senior Center, North Carolina Hillel, Carrboro Town Hall, Master’s Garden Preschool and the Orange County Board of Elections.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-board-elections-approves-early-voting-hours-sunday/
We could be headed for a run-off in at least one highly contested local election. Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, breaks down the possible scenarios if the election results are narrow following the May 6 primary.
Under the current state statute, a run-off, or a second primary, is not required if a candidate gets a “substantial” plurality–which Reams says is defined as 40 percent plus one vote.
“To eliminate the possibility of a run-off, a candidate would need to get 40 percent plus one. If a candidate does not reach that then the second place candidate would then have the right to ask for a run-off in writing,” Reams says.
The Democratic primary race for Orange County Sheriff is looking to be one of the closest contests with six candidates vying for the position.
If just a local election requires a run-off, Reams says it will be held on June 24, seven weeks after the first primary per state law.
If the congressional senate contest requires a run-off, all second primaries will be held on July 15, ten weeks after the first primary.
“There is not a possibility of having a June primary and then a July primary. It would all be held in one second primary.”
The North Carolina Republican primary in the race for the United States Senate appeared to be headed for a run-off, but a recent poll revealed that state House Speaker Thom Tillis has managed to widen his lead.
Reams says that if a second primary is required, there is one important rule unaffiliated voters should keep in mind.
“If an unaffiliated voter votes in the first primary, they would be required to vote the same party in the second primary.”
The last run-off election held in Orange County was on July 17, 2012, for several state offices: the Democratic race for Commissioner of Labor and the Republican race for Lieutenant Governor, Commissioner of Insurance, Secretary of State, and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Click here to view the full candidate list for the May 6 primary.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/close-local-races-possible-run-election-dates/
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 DMVhttp://chapelboro.com/news/election/nc-approves-five-early-voting-sites-orange-county/
The Orange County Board of Elections has selected five early voting sites for the May 6 primary. That’s one more option than last year, and another location could be added when the state Board of Elections gives final approval Monday.
Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, says the five selected sites are Carrboro Town Hall, the Seymour Senior Center in Chapel Hill, Master’s Garden Preschool in Hillsborough, the Board of Elections Office in Hillsborough, and the North Carolina Hillel Center in Chapel Hill.
Reams says the state Board of Elections will approve those five sites.
Though the dining hall was convenient for students, it presented several challenges, such as compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Reams says the North Carolina Hillel Center, located on W. Cameron St., is more suitable for one-stop voting.
“I think the Board chose this site because if the accessibility. It is ADA accessible. It has, what we are hoping is, adequate parking. It had the best parking of the three locations that the Board was looking at, and with the bus service being right there, we just think it would be a good site.”
The Board also considered two other campus locations to replace the Ram’s Head Dining Hall— Sonja Haynes Stone Center and Cobb Residence Hall.
“That will be decided Monday by the state Board of Elections on whether or not an alternative plan will add that sixth site, which would be Cobb Residence.”
Reams says it also important for voters to pay attention to the recent changes in North Carolina’s election laws.
People cannot register to vote during the early voting period as they could in the past.
“If anyone wants to vote early or on election day, they need to meet that April 11th registration deadline.”
House Bill 598, passed by the Republican-led General Assembly last summer, shortened the early voting period from 17 to nine days. The law also requires that all early voting sites must have identical schedules and provide the option of curbside voting.
For more information on Orange County’s early voting sites and their hours of operation, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/oc-board-elections-approves-five-early-voting-sites-may-primary/
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/
CHAPEL HILL – The Orange County Board of Elections is looking for a site to replace Ram’s Head Dining Hall on UNC’s campus for one-stop early voting next year.
Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, says that though the dining hall was convenient for students, it presented several challenges, such as compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It is not conducive to do curbside voting there at Ram’s Head because you have to park in a parking deck and the building is actually located above the parking deck,” Reams says.
Reams says her office is working with Linda Convissor, UNC’s Director of Local Relations, to find another site on campus where student access to the polls won’t be hindered.
“We’re working with the elected officials in Chapel Hill, the students, and the administrative staff there trying to locate another site,” she says.
Due to recent State election law revisions, the early voting period in 2014 will be significantly shortened. With these changes, Reams say she wants to find a replacement site that will help make it easier to vote.
Morehead Planetarium was once used as a one-stop early site, but it was repurposed by the University and is no longer available.
The OC Board of Elections has until March 14 to pick a new site and submit its early voting plan to the State Board of Elections.
“We just want the public to know that they are welcome to attend the meetings and provide input,” Reams says. “We just hope that we can find a suitable site for everybody before that March 14 deadline.”
Reams says that the community can visit the Orange County Board of Elections website for meeting information.
CHAPEL HILL – Early voting for the Nov. 5 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board elections kicks off on Thursday.
Though changes are coming soon to election laws in North Carolina, Tracy Reams, Director of the Orange County Board of Elections, says that the policies will be the same for this election season.
“Most of the changes are coming into play on January 1 of 2014,” Reams says. “One of the things is that they will be eliminating same-day registration.”
Reams explains that anyone who shows up for early-voting this year can participate in same-day registration. The early voting period lasts until Saturday, Nov. 2.
“Additionally, we do have a very low turnout in the municipal elections, and we are hoping with these sites, and hours we hoping folks will utilize these early voting sites,” she says.
The four early-voting sites in Orange County are:
- The Board of Elections Office at 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough
- Carrboro Town Hall at 301 West Main St., Carrboro
- Rams Head Dining Hall at 320 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill
- Seymour Senior Center at 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill
All sites will be open Monday through Friday. Rams Head Dining Hall and Carrboro Town Hall will be open during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Board of Elections will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Janice Tyler, Director of the Department of Aging, says that the Seymour Center will be open on weekdays, noon to 6 p.m.
“One of the best things about being an early voting site is that we get community folks into the Center that might otherwise never get to come in, so we get to share with them about things that happen at the Center and what the Department of Aging does,” Tyler says.
All four early voting sites will be and all will be open on November 2, from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m.
Click here for more information on the 2013 Election.http://chapelboro.com/2013-election-central/2013-election-votes/early-voting-in-orange-county-kicks-off-thursday/