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.”

DOT Work Closes Portion of Orange Grove Road

A section of Orange Grove Road will be closed in both directions beginning Monday as North Carolina Department of Transportation crews replace a deteriorating pipe under the roadway.

Officials say Orange Grove Road will be closed between Teer Road and Dairyland Road beginning at nine o’clock Monday morning.

A 10-mile detour has been established utilizing Dairyland Road, Dodsons Crossroads and NC 54.

The road is scheduled to reopen at five o’clock in the evening on Monday, August 29.

Car Wreck Closes NC-86 in Northern Orange County

Authorities say one victim has been life flighted to a local trauma center with serious injuries after a wreck on NC-86 near Hawkins Road in northern Orange County.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation tweeted the accident closed the roadway entirely.

ABC11 reported the crash was a head-on collision with an overhead photo from their helicopter.

There is no timeline for when the road will be reopened.

Orange County Working on New System to Help Homeless

How many people in Orange County are homeless as of this year? And, what is being done for those who experience homelessness? These were only a few questions discussed at the Homelessness Orientation at the Seymour Center Tuesday evening.

The orientation was led by Corey Root. She’s the Homeless Programs Coordinator for Orange County. She says the purpose of the orientation is to educate community members on what programs are available to combat homelessness, and which of those programs are changing.

“There’s a staff that comes together that really tries to connect folks with resources, such that they’re not just cycling through the system over and over again. So this is super innovative and really cool.”

What Root is describing is a new system of placing those who are homeless with places they can go and programs that can help them. She says in the past, the system was made to be one-size-fits-all. And now, Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness – or OCPEH – is working on a more tailored approach to fit each person who reaches out for help.

“It’s thinking about, okay, if I were someone who is in crisis and maybe frontal lobe’s not fully functioning at this point for various reasons, what would this situation look like to me?”

Root also addressed this year’s point-in-time count. It’s an evaluation of the number of people who experience homelessness in Orange County. This year, the number dropped down to 80 people. She says this could be because OCPEH has helped almost 50 more people than last year. But, maybe not.

“Are there people here that we’re not finding? Is that one reason that the numbers are down? Are there people that were here that were part of some of those numbers but they’ve gone somewhere else?”

No matter the reason, OCPEH says they will continue working to accurately identify the number of homeless people in Orange County, and they will continue working to perfect and fund the new, personalized system of support.

No Sunday Voting in Proposed Early Voting Plan in Orange County

Local Boards of Elections across North Carolina have been holding meetings recently to adjust early-voting plans after the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down provisions of North Carolina’s Voter ID law last month.

Beyond presenting a photo ID approved by the state at the polls to vote, the law that was struck down also shortened the early-voting period from 17 to 10 days, among other provisions. That led to the Orange County Board of Elections holding a meeting Tuesday to create a new early-voting plan.

For the better part of an hour on Tuesday afternoon, Orange County residents packed a room at the Board of Elections office during a public comment period asking officials to provide more hours for early voting, including on Sundays.

Maria Palmer is a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and is one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit challenging the Voter ID law. She said Sunday voting would be beneficial, especially to the growing Latino community in the county.

“We know in the Hispanic community,” Palmer said, “Sunday is one of the few days that construction workers get off and most housekeepers get off.

“We need Sunday voting.”

Among those asking for extended hours and Sunday voting was Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich. She said the commissioners had spoken since the federal court ruling and agreed to allocate the needed money to fund the expanded hours.

“As a sign of this commitment, we respectfully request that the Board of Elections create an early-voting schedule that maximizes the hours, the days and the locations for residents to vote for the November election,” Rich said when reading from a letter from the commissioners to the Board of Elections.

As the meeting continued through speaker after speaker asking for extended hours and especially Sunday voting, it immediately became apparent among the board’s discussion that was not going to happen.

The one Democratic member of the three-member board, Jamie Cox, did not suggest any Sunday hours in his proposed plan.

Cox said he based that off of previous efforts to get Sunday voting being shot down by the two other members of the board – both Republicans – Bob Randall and board chair Kathy Knight.

“One of the things that will not be popular with my party, is that my plan does not include Sunday hours,” Cox said when presenting his early-voting proposal. “That’s something we have fought for in the past, and I understand is not in the cards.”

Randall responded later in the meeting saying he was representing his party – Republicans – and that Sunday voting was not popular within that group.

Eventually, a plan from chair Knight was put forward. After approximately a dozen motions being presented from Cox, a plan was approved by a 2-1 margin with Randall objecting. All of the previous amendments from Cox hoping to expand voting hours died for lack of a second.

The room had thinned out as the meeting eclipsed the two-hour mark, but the crowd showed it still had a lot of fight over one particular line from Randall.

“The state has…bent over backwards to make voting accessible,” Randall said to a crowd that let out a collective howl as residents pointed to the strongly-worded ruling saying North Carolina had targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision” when crafting the Voter ID law.

Randall objected to the final plan approved by the other two members of the board, although he would not give a firm answer as to why he objected to the proposal when pressed by those still in the room.

The approved plan calls for five locations to be open for early voting.

The county Board of Elections and Carrboro Town Hall will be open from nine o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening each weekday of early voting. Meanwhile, the Efland Ruritan Club, Chapel of the Cross and the Seymour Center will be open from noon until seven o’clock each evening. On the first two Saturdays of early voting, all sites will be open from nine o’clock until four o’clock in the afternoon. On the final Saturday, early voting will be permitted to run from nine o’clock that morning until one o’clock in the afternoon.

The plan also calls for polls to be open until 7:30 in the evening on the last three weekdays of early voting.

The board said that would total 565 hours of early voting.

Randall has the right to submit his own plan to the State Board of Elections, which will ultimately decide which plan to go with.

There is no timeline for that decision.

Defense Team Argues Seizure of Cell Phone ‘Flawed’ in Fatal Orange County Crash

When exactly has a search warrant been served?

That was the question that hours of testimony and argument aimed to answer on Tuesday morning in a Hillsborough courtroom.

The question stemmed from the fatal wrong-way crash on I-85 in July 2015 in which three people were killed. Chandler Kania, a 20-year-old UNC student at the time, is accused of driving the wrong way on the interstate for at least six miles before crashing head-on into another vehicle and killing three of the four passengers. Records show Kania’s blood-alcohol content the night of the crash was a .17, which is twice the legal limit to drive in North Carolina. Kaina was also underage at the time of the crash.

Kania spent most of the four days following the crash in the hospital receiving treatment for his own injuries suffered in the crash.

A search warrant was taken out to seize Kania’s cell phone from either the suspect, his parents or anyone in his hospital room following the crash.

That phone was eventually recovered. But it was done so at Kania’s parents’ residence in Asheboro, which is where Kania’s defense attorney Roger Smith took issue with the warrant. Smith argued the warrant specifically authorized the search in the hospital room at UNC Hospitals where Kania was being treated, and he said that warrant being executed at the Asheboro home rather than the hospital room made it invalid.

“That’s the fatal flaw,” Smith said. “I mean, that’s just the fatal flaw here. You can’t serve somebody with a search warrant for a hospital room in Orange County in Asheboro.”

Not everyone in the courtroom agreed as to when the service of the warrant actually occurred. Troopers with the North Carolina Highway Patrol testified that the warrant was initially served in the hospital room just before Kania was to be released.

The testimony revealed Kaina’s parents were not in possession of the phone in the hospital room at that time but rather told authorities they had left it at the Asheboro home in their trips back and forth while their son was recovering.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman argued that the warrant was, therefore, served in the hospital room. Beyond that service, Nieman said Kania’s parents acquiesced to the service by offering to turn over the phone.

“The immediate response from everyone in that room that said anything was, the first response was to voluntarily go get it [in the room] and second response when they didn’t find it was, ‘We’ll go get it and bring it to you,’” Nieman said in court Tuesday.

A trooper testified on Tuesday that he did not ask Kania’s parents to bring the phone back. Rather he arranged for another trooper to go to the Asheboro residence once the parents had returned and pick up the phone.

Smith argued that constituted a second search that was not valid under the warrant. But the troopers testified that Kania’s father went in and retrieved the phone and that no trooper entered the residence – a distinction pointed out by Superior Court Judge Allan Baddour.

“The trooper did not go in the house. The castle was protected,” Baddour said.

The defense attorneys were hoping that with the motion on Tuesday any evidence obtained from Kania’s cell phone from the night of the crash would not be allowed to go before the jury when the case goes to trial.

Baddour did not rule on the motion on Tuesday, instead saying he would issue a ruling this week or next.

Baddour did deny a motion from the defense hoping to continue the case beyond the October 3 trial date that is currently set.

Kania has been under house arrest at his parents’ home in Asheboro since being released from custody after posting a $1 million bond in July of last year.

On the one-year anniversary of the crash, family members of the victims – 49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird – held a candlelight vigil in Chapel Hill.

Explore Rural Orange County

As a resident of Chapel Hill, I admit I love the noise and bustle of a busy college town.  But, lately I wonder if many of us know as much about our rural countryside as we should?

I think we need to stop and smell the roses.  Okay, maybe the tractors, too.

Recently, I joined a committee that meets on a farm and discusses agricultural practices.  I’ll be honest.  The city girl in me rolled her eyes.  I’ve always been more comfortable around city lofts, skyscrapers, and noise.  Not so much John Deere and haystacks.

But, what’s interesting is that when I attend these meetings, it occurs to me that Chapel Hill is surrounded by fields and farms that haven’t changed in centuries.  It’s just a short drive from a whole other world.

Part of the magic of where we live is that we are able to move from the city to the country in almost nothing flat.  At first, you might see absence of something.  But, it won’t take you long to discover what is truly there, though.  Another way to live.  Another way of life.

Did you know that Orange County has more than 300 farms?  Open fields, river-edge pastures.

There are many opportunities to get out of our city life and enjoy nature.  Any day is a perfect day to get in the car, get out into the country, and enjoy green acres.

After all, green acres is the place to be.  Farm living is the life for me.

I hope it’s the life for you, too.


— Laurie Paolicelli


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Motions Set for Tuesday in Chandler Kania Fatal Wrong-Way Crash Case

The former UNC student charged with three counts of second-degree murder in connection with a wrong-way crash on I-85 last summer is due in court Tuesday.

Motions in the case of Chandler Kania are scheduled to be discussed in a Hillsborough courtroom on Tuesday morning.

Multiple outlets reported in early August that Kania’s attorneys would be asking for evidence in the case to be excluded when the case goes to trial, which is set for October.

Among the pieces of evidence the defense team reportedly wants suppressed is Kania’s blood-alcohol content, which registered as a .17 the night of the crash. That is double the legal limit to drive in North Carolina for anyone and Kania was only 20 years old at the time of the crash.

Kania is facing charges of second-degree murder for each of the three passengers that were killed in the vehicle his Jeep struck head-on – 49-year-old Felicia Harris, 46-year-old Darlene McGee and six-year-old Jahnice Baird.

Another passenger, nine-year-old Jahnia King was also seriously hurt in the crash.

Family members of the three victims held a vigil on the one-year anniversary of the crash in July.

McCrory Asks for Stay in North Carolina Voter ID Ruling

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is asking the United States Supreme Court to stay a ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law.

The law was struck down in a strongly worded decision from the United States Fouth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling said provisions of the Voter ID law – which also cut early voting days, eliminated preregistration for teenagers, same-day registration in early voting and out-of-precinct voting on Election Day – “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling immediately struck down the law immediately, even as many plans were approved with Election Day approaching in November.

McCrory wrote in a release announcing the request to US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Today we have asked Chief Justice John Roberts to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law. This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

The released added that a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case would follow this request for a stay.

The Orange County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss a new early voting plan.

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.