10 counties in the east ask to further cut early voting - WNCN: News, Weather

10 counties in the east ask to further cut early voting

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A law passed by the General Assembly earlier this year decreased the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10. However lawmakers came with a stipulation: counties would still have to offer at least the same number of cumulative hours for people to vote ahead of Election Day.

But now -- more than a third of North Carolina counties are asking for an exemption to that law. In the east, 10 counties (Craven, Currituck, Duplin, Greene, Martin, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrell) already requested such exemptions. 9 On Your Side set out to find out why.

Boards of Elections and elections directors say they unanimously voted to lower the number of hours because of budget constraints and low voter turnout. Before it is considered by the State Board of Elections, local boards have to unanimously approve the proposal to cut hours.

The state also requires request be submitted on an annual basis.

The biggest counties are Onslow and Craven. Craven County says their proposal to reduce the hours by about 3-hours a day at each site -- while adding a fifth polling location -- was approved by the state.     

Director of elections Meloni Wray says in order to put in such request, the board looks at the number of hours in 2010 -- another midterm year -- and how many voted during early voting. Wray reports only 3% of voters cast ballots early and there were just over 4 voters per hour.

The same goes for Greene County. Chairman Katie Head says they are requesting to be reduced to 85 hours because of their turn out. She thinks that's enough time for people to vote.

Pamlico County Board of Elections Director Gene Lupton defended the board's decision. "We are not suppressing the vote. We are giving the voters better and wider opportunities to vote."

Critics say any effort to cut early voting can be interpreted as a tactic to suppress the vote especially that of minorities.


Previous version by Jeff Varner

Ten counties in the east want an exemption from North Carolina's new voting law.  The exemption would allow counties to cut early voting hours for the May 6th primary even more than the new law already does.  A full third of the counties in North Carolina, mostly rural, are seeking the special permission to cut more hours.

In the east, they are:  Craven, Currituck, Duplin, Greene, Martin, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans and Tyrell.  No county can request an exemption without the unanimous approval of the boards of election.  Critics of the law say lawmakers found a solution for a problem that never existed.  And the data shows North Carolinians love their early voting.  In 2012, 57% of the votes cast went in the ballot box during early voting hours.

The new law passed by the General Assembly cuts the number of early-voting days to 10 from 17, though counties must still offer enough hours to vote early to compensate for the closures.  Most plan to open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.  

The law allows exemptions as long as counties plan to offer fewer hours than required, and county and state elections boards unanimously agree.

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