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.