On Campus Early Voting Being Challenged by the R Majority

penny rich's picture
Great Saturday Morning “Coffee Conversations with your Commissioner” this morning. The conversation focused on the OCBOE’s possible attempt to move early voting off the UNC Campus. The R-majority would like to move the voting site to the Chapel Hill Public Library citing complications with parking and access for any campus sites. The Rams Head Dining Hall site has already been voted off the list, as a matter of fact it never made the list. I think having early voting at the CH library is a fine idea to relieve the so called parking and access pressure, however, that should be in conjunction with an early voting site on campus, NOT instead of. Linda Convissor, UNC’s Community Relations Director is working with the BOE to identify additional sites and we are hoping for a positive outcome. Students at UNC should not be disenfranchised; we all witnessed the Wataga BOE in action. Please pay attention to this evolving story. What happens in 2014 early voting can be with us for years to come. Now is the time to speak out. Next BOE meeting is February 4th currently scheduled at the BOE office in Hillsborough, 3:30pm. (I am told that they may not meet in Hillsborough, rather take a tour of the suggested sites.Check the web sitehttp://www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/index.asp) It is critical that we have input from as many stakeholders as possible in order to meet the community’s needs and maintain ballot access in this new restrictive environment. 
The OC commissioners made it quite clear that we will help in any way we can. 
The BOE will have to submit their site suggestion to the state by March 14th.

Approved Sites;
BOE in Hillsborough – required by statute
Seymour Center
Carrboro Town Hall

Additional Sites under consideration;
NC Hillel
Cobb Residence Hall
Stone Center – logistical problems during football season
523 East Franklin – site of the old library
Chapel Hill Public Library
Newman Center on campus is a possible suggestion

issue: 

Total votes: 7

13 Comments

penny rich's picture

Goal

The goal is to increase the sites. This is why it is somewhat disturbing that the majority is looking to eliminate on campus voting. Of course the cost of the increased sites will be picked up by OC tax payers not the state. 

Geoff Green's picture

who's to blame?

Ever since I moved to town in 2008, the location of an on-campus early voting site has been contentious. It was originally at Morehead until that site became unavailable, and then after a long search Ram's Head which has continued to have issues of its own. Perhaps something is going on with the local Republican election commissioners, but is it their doing, or is more of the same of the continuing trouble figuring out with UNC administrators where to put an on-campus voting site?

McCrory voters

The 100 county board of elections are controlled by the party of the governor. The GOP has a pattern of finding student voting contentious.Whether it's moving on campus voting off campus at App State, ECU, and other colleges around the state. Whether it's saying you'll need a government issued photo ID to vote unless that government issued photo ID is a student government issued photo ID. Trying to say students don't count as residents for the purposes of running for office like up in Elizabeth City. Ending pre-registration of high school students.There's always a back and forth with universities to fight for on campus voting, that isn't unique to UNC, but before McCrory took the governor's mansion it was generally a fight that was won in favor of young voters who face particular challenges like being new to the process, often not having cars for ease of transportation, and having moved around a lot lately between their home, dorms, apartments and needing to update their registration (which now there is no same day registration for them to use either thanks to the anti-voting bills McCrory signed into law).

James Barrett's picture

NCGA to blame of course

If you read some of the previous threads here especially where Gerry points out what is required for EVERY site, I think the basic issue is that on-campus sites have a hard time meeting those requirements (such as parking and curbside).  It seems to me a *sensible* thing would be, since we have to increase sites, to allow some of them (maybe the "extra" ones over 2010) to meet only some of the requirements.  That would open up more on-campus possibilities (student union for an obvious example).  As it is, there are just few possibilities allowed.

penny rich's picture

Statute

I am told that urban sites can ask for a variance to the statute but it has to go through the very people who want to take the voting away from students, the GA in Raleigh. Is this so Gerry? 

gercohen's picture

standards

Penny. I'll need to get a complete answer Tuesday, but the basics are that there is no absolute parking requirement. There is a requirement to have a place at the curb (public street, parking lot, or even in a parking deck) where a disabled person can vote from a vehicle.  Parking is pretty subjective, but its obvious there are thousands who have no vehicle for which access to parking is irrelevant, access by walking or transit is more relevant. I'd encourage the decision makers to consider access to at least one site by those who have no vehicle as an important factor if there are already three or four locations with plenty of parkig for those with cars.Importanrtly, if there is not a unanimous vote of the county board of elections, the dissenting member can present an alternate plan to the State Board of Eletions which will then have the final say.

SBOE

Indeed lacking plans can and should be appealed to the SBOE, but as with the county boards, they became GOP controlled when Governor McCrory took office. They have a mixed history so far. They let Montravious run up in Elizabeth City, but they sided against the board member that wanted student accessible voting at App State if I recall correctly.

mghughes's picture

Mixed Bag

I reguarly deal with the issues that come before us in regards to our Early Vote plans. With a campus site we have added difficulties. Firstly, the Board would like to see the same sites used in the spring and fall. That makes the Stone Center and Rams Head complicated for various reasons. Most of it stems from the fact there are events that would shut those sites down, but VIVA would require all sites to close as a result.I do believe that the logistics of Rams Head are a pain on staff, but I firmly believe that you go to where the voters are regardless of how difficult it is for you personally. The VIVA issues would make Rams extremely difficult, but I believe that convenince of the students (whom some folks have called "lazy") is paramount. Hillel would be a good site, as well as Cobb Hall.Now because of some of the difficulty regarding parking, I would be in favor of the Chapel Hill Library being an additional 5th site to Cobb or Hillel. And I would not be opposed to a 6th site situated in the northern part of the county. Funding shouldn't be an issue as I'm sure our commissioners would be open to providing funding for accessible elections in our county. But at the end of the day, logistics is being used as an excuse to hide politics. 

gercohen's picture

which library

Matt, are you talking about the Chapel Hill Library on Estes (no bus routes, up a hill, etc), or the "Old" Chapel Hill Library on E Franklin at Boundary Street which is close to campus?

Ed Harrison's picture

Libraries

The Public Library is already a regular polling place, just restored this past Fall.  It's a few minutes walk from at least three bus routes (up and down a hill). The "old" library has bus routes almost by the door, and is way closer to UNC dorms. So presumably the latter would be the one under consideration for early voting. It remains Town property, so that's who to ask.Ed Harrison

gercohen's picture

huzzah, FB schedule out, no conflicts with on-campus early vote

One of the cited problems with an on campus location this year was home football games. Under new law all sites must be open on the same days so no longer could campus site be closed while Seymour/Carrboro were open. UNC football plays away at UVa Saturday 10/25 and at Miami on Saturday 11/1 so there are NO home football games during early vote Saturdays this fall, thus making it much easier to have an on-campus location. FB schedule was released at 3 pm today http://raycomsports.com/sports_labs_docs/m-footbl/2014_m-footbl_schedule.pdf

mghughes's picture

My Letter to Members of the Board

Dear Members of the Board,Thank you for visiting the Hillel site a few weeks ago. As you saw, there were many pluses with the site and a few complications in the way of parking. However, my concerns regarding having a site that's easily accessible to students as well as remains consistent remain.I would like to re-propose the option of Rams Head Dining Hall to the Board. This site is a familiar site to students and was approved by both the previous Board and the current Board for three consecutive elections in 2012 and 2013. I fear that changing the site now would suppress student interest, make it more difficult for students to vote, and send the wrong signal to a very socially conscious student body.It is my belief that if students are to be given an accessible option for voting then that would require going to where this particular constituency resides, both literally and figuratively. One of the largest obstacles regarding Rams was the newly enacted VIVA law which would have forced all other Early Vote sites to close if there were a football game making Rams unavailable.At 3pm today, the Athletic Department released the fall football schedule. Both games which would have coincided with early voting, 10/25 and 11/1, are away games at UVA and Miami and thus would not hinder electioneering efforts or access to the venue.One concern raised by those in the community is accessibility for the wider community and that Rams Head is not conducive to those who live in the nearby community, especially those who need curbside voting. That is why I propose that the Board consider a potential fifth site at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Estes Drive. This site would be closer to those who are opting to vote early but would still be closer to them than either Seymour or Carrboro Town Hall.If funding becomes an issue, I would implore the Board to seek funds from the County Commissioners. I know that many of the Commissioners believe that early voting should be as accessible as possible and would support a plan that would do just that.Sincerely,Matt Hughes