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Hullabaloo


Friday, September 09, 2016

 

Block the vote!

by Tom Sullivan

The executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, Dallas Woodhouse, last month urged Republican Board of Elections appointees across the state's 100 counties to “make party line changes to early voting” to limit early voting sites and hours. In its July ruling that threw out much of the the state's massive voter suppression law, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals restored a week of early voting the law cut from the fall schedule. Local election plans had to be reworked, and nearly a third of county boards did just what Woodhouse asked. (With a Republican in the governor's mansion, 3-member county boards across the state are weighted 2-1 Republican to Democrat.) Another NCGOP official urged Republican county board members to provide only a single voting site for the extra week and the minimum hours allowed by law.

The state Board of Elections, however, rules on the plans where county boards split. In a marathon session yesterday, the state board reigned in some of the locals:

RALEIGH - Noting the watchful eye of a federal court, the State Board of Elections voted to restore Sunday early voting hours in several counties that had offered the option – popular among African-American voters – in 2012.

The board also voted to add early voting hours in counties where schedules had been cut. But in party line votes, the board’s Republican majority rejected efforts to add Sunday voting in counties that hadn’t previously offered it.

Some of the decisions put members of the board’s Republican majority at odds with their party’s leaders, who had lobbied extensively for fewer early voting opportunities and the elimination of Sunday voting. The board was charged with settling disputed early voting schedules in 33 counties where the local board vote wasn’t unanimous.
Wake County (Raleigh) contains ten percent of the registered voters in the state. During the same seven-day time period in 2012, Democrats told the state board, more than 72,000 Wake County voters cast early ballots. The local board had approved a single voting site for the extra week of voting, the minimum allowed. The state board expanded that to nine, plus an extra Sunday of voting. Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, also ten percent of the state's registered voters) had approved six sites for the additional week. The state board expanded that to ten.

The state board made its decisions while looking over its shoulders at the federal court:
"I think today what you witnessed was, to a pretty good extent, a bipartisan board doing its best to interpret and make a good faith effort to comply with the law and especially the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals," Democratic state board member Joshua Malcolm said after the meeting had concluded.
We are expecting 80 percent turnout where I live. It is going to be a wild ride.