Early voting not on campus?

Many members of the Chapel Hill community have been working for years to increase voting awareness and participation among students. All that effort might be for naught if the Orange County Board of Elections decides to move the one-stop early voting site to the new Robert and Pearl Seymour Senior Center on Homestead Road. According to the News & Observer, Morehead Planetarium will be under construction and will not be able to host the voting site.

The news of the potential relocation of the voting site to the Senior Center, a location that is not within walking distance for students, is especially disheartening after the recent passage of the same-day voter registration bill, which many believe will help increase voter turnout among students. If we want to encourage students to take an interest or an active role in their community, we should not relocate polls to a center that is out of reach for most students.

It's not just about students though. In the recent past, the UNC voting location has been Orange County's most popular early-voting site for UNC faculty and staff as well as local community members that live and work in and around downtown. The News & Observer writes: "Last year, nearly 2,800 people voted early at the planetarium. They represented more than 40 percent of the early ballots cast and 8 percent of the total ballots cast in the 2006 general election."

UNC Student Government leaders will be meeting today 7/27 with the Director of Elections for the Orange County Board of Elections to discuss alternative voting sites such as the Student Union. In the meantime please join us in advocating for a one-stop early voting site that is accessible to and convenient for both students and the broader community.

The Elections Board:
* Billie J. Cox - Chair
* Henry (Hank) Elkins, Jr. - Secretary
* John J. Felten - Member

The Board of Elections will be meeting August 7th, 4:00 pm at the board of election office 110 E. King Street in Hillsborough if you would like to personally weigh in.

You can contact Director of Elections Barry Garner at bgarner@co.orange.nc.us or call or mail the BOE at:

Board of Elections
110 E. King St
P.O. Box 220
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278
Telephone: (919) 245-2350
Fax Number: 919-644-3318
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.



I can't understand the folks complaining (in one of those N&O articles) about not being able to park to vote at Morehead. Don't they know there are two other locations? When I vote early, I almost always do it at Carrboro Town Hall, even though I live in Chapel Hill.

With all due respect to the Senior Center, moving this off campus would be a big setback to student representation and to democracy in Chapel Hill.

Here is the letter that I drafted earlier this week:

July 25, 2007

Barry Garner
Orange County Board of Elections
Hillsborough, NC 27278

Dear Mr. Garner;

I understand that the Board of Elections is planning to move one of the early voting sites from UNC campus to the Senior Center. I must tell you that I consider this a totally unacceptable proposal.

If the issue with using a campus location is the parking access, then please consider directing voters with automobile needs to the Carrboro Town Hall early voting site.

Many of us have worked long and hard to make our local demcoracy truly inclusive by advocating for UNC student voters. In recent years, the Board of Elections has been a key partner in this effort. Please do not take a step backward by moving away from having an early voting site on campus.

The thousands of students who live on campus by and large do not have cars to drive to the Senior Center to participate in early voting. These same students are carved up across several different polling sites on election day, many of those sites being a remarkable distance from their ordinary travels. The campus early voting site has been a great solution to this problem. Please stick with it.


Mark Chilton
Mayor of Carrboro

Mark, is it possible to split the task, to have the first
week of voting at the senior center and the second week at the
student union? Or, since there are advantages and disadvantages to both sites, run both of them simultaneously?
Morehead has always been really convenient for me, and I'd
hate to lose it.

Thanks for writing the letter to Barry Garner.

What about a building NEAR the planetarium, so that if people came to vote they would see signs pointing them to the right place. Like maybe the church next door? Or, one of the UNC buildings adjacent?

I like Mark's point as a public transit advocate, but I always vote with my whole family in tow on the weekend, so I would probably go to Carrboro instead.

I've communicated with Barry on this and he seemed hopeful that the student union might still work.

I suggested the lobby of Memorial Hall because of the easy access for curb side voting and its well known location.

As Tom noted, I 'blogged on this recently but what hasn't made the news is superprecincts for campus are off the table pending a n upgrade to our brand new ESS voting equipment!

I specifically spoke to the ESS sales dude about superprecincts. "No problem." Yet, here we are - another year (about 10 since I've been pushing) we don't have an umbrella precinct for campus.

Anyone that's worked the GOTV on campus knows the confusion inherent in how students are apportioned to polling sites.

Joe, I'm trundling up to Hillsborough to drop my mid-year report off (and see what the other candidates are up to). I'll ask Barry about the logistics of splitting the sites (I imagine communicating the split to the community might be the biggie).

why is this an either or issue? Why is there a limit of two southern orange sites?

If many people have problems with on campus parking, have a site at the Senior center. Then also have one at the student union. Keep the one in Carrboro. Have three in Southern Orange.

Here in Wake County we had 13 early voting sites in 2004. Some had parking problems, but they were easily accessible to people who lived nearby who did not have cars (it was on the NC State campus). Some were in locations with lots of parking that were great for people WITH cars. Everyone had an easy option.

Here's the latest poop:

1) It's not construction but a special exhibit that's bumped the BOE at Morehead.

2) The site must be public property - no churches, stores, etc. (I don't know why - there's election day precincts at churches).

3) The facility needs handicap access, nearby "curb side voting" spots, 6 parking spaces for BOE staff and 4-5 spaces for voters.

4) Some place to lock up equipment overnight.

5) Vice Chan. Steve Allred and BOE Director Barry Garner are discussing other possibilities (that, I believe, are at UNC's suggestion).

Get the word out - the BOE is ready for some suggestions....

Whoops! Joe, Barry was out so I didn't get a chance to ask about the logistics of splitting weeks between the Stud.Un. and Homestead.

Steve is Executive Associate Provost last I heard.

I guess Chapel Hill Town Hall would be a difficult site, but what about the CHPL, a regular polling place. Could the museum work?

I wonder if the BOE could get a short term lease on the old Trail Shop on Franklin St. (next to Hams)? Wonder if they have the budget for such an endeavor?

Someone shot me an email suggesting the lawn of "He's Not Here" but that doesn't qualify on the "public" clause (might increase turnout though ;-) ).

Thanks, Ruby. I did not know that we Chapel Hillians could vote early in Carrboro.

Anita, it's great. The Mayor hands each voter a cookie and a cup of lemonade.

Sounds like a republican scam to me. We all know the old folks vote republican due to their fixed incomes and therefore resultant increased tax aversion.

I guess it is better to inconvenience the old folks than the young ones, since they have so much more time on their hands.

Sounds like a republican scam to me. We all know the old folks vote republican due to their fixed incomes and therefore resultant increased tax aversion.

I guess it is better to inconvenience the old folks than the young ones, since they have so much more time on their hands.

law requires early voting sites to be a public building.

Ramshead just south of Kenan Stadium could meet all the requirements, I would think.

How about the Post Office building on Franklin St?

This meets Will''s stated criteria from BOE. The Town could give BOE staff use of spaces in the Wallace Deck during the voting period. Spaces for public could be on Franklin or Henderson. The Town owns the building, handicap access, election area can be locked.

Andrea, that's a great idea. It would make the poll site much more visible and any registered Orange County voter walking by could just drop in and do it!

Thanks everyone for all of your ideas. Keep them coming! I'm keeping a list of potential options to give to the BOE.

Also, check out today's media coverage:

Herald-Sun story: http://www.heraldsun.com/orange/10-868632.cfm?


How about the Smith Center. Plenty of parking....

And it just occurred to me. Early voters at the Smith Center get to participate in a drawing for 2 tickets to a Tar Heel game. What an incentive.

I'm curious about the public-funded building requirement for one-stop voting. You are not the first person I've heard list this as a requirement. But I looked at the General Statute that I thought was relevant and what I understood it to say was that the BOE couldn't REQUIRE a church to give it space, but it could ask. Am I looking at the wrong statute or misinterpreting it? I think it was GS 163-129.

Just to be clear Will, it's organic lemonade.

Seems to me it should be located where working people live, like Rogers Road for example. I am sure the Faith Tabernacle church over here would help out.

It was interesting to read about Mr. Nelson weighing in on this issue thru the local newspaper, especially since he listed his address as Carrboro. I thought he was moving to Hillsborough since he could not afford Carrboro. Another Poser? (Yes, poser as in someone who says one thing and does another for those who don't get it.) Heaven forbid.

The bottom line is that the liberals do not want to lose votes by putting this anywhere except in the laps of the students. Paint it any way you want. It is a vote grab.

It seems the early polling station should be at both places not one or the other. We should making it as easy as possible for all to vote, not pitting one population against the other trying to figure out which is more worthy.

They should have early voting at the courthouse on Franklin Street. Have you ever been in that building? It is cavernous and largely empty downstairs. Plenty of room and for some reason, way more bathrooms than could ever be needed?

G.S. 163-227.2(g) restricts early voting sites to public buildings. (state, county, local, school board, airport authority ...) This was part of a compromise five years ago when the excuse requirement for early voting was eliminated and sites outside the BoE office were allowed.

David R says: "And it just occurred to me. Early voters at the Smith Center get to participate in a drawing for 2 tickets to a Tar Heel game. What an incentive."

I think that would be illegal.

Mike Nelson lives in Hillsborough. That's what the Orange County Commissioners contact page says.

Making it easy for UNC students to vote is not just a vote grab.
There's a lot of history here, mostly that UNC groups have done
a superb job in getting UNC students to register, but not getting
them to actually vote. Every student body president that I have
known in the last 20 years has said that he/she would actually
accomplishing this task, but every odd year (town council
elections), the turnout of college-aged people at the
precincts where most UNC students live is about 3 pct.

The history revolves around suppression of the vote of the
UNC students for fear that the students would dominate the
town elections, with the result that the most liberal
candidates (students and older ones) would wlin easily, while
those whose platforms revolved around more conservative
issues, e.g., efficient govt with low prop taxes, would
not have a chance. Personally, as a UNC faculty member,
I likely would have benefitted by a high student vote,
but that's not enough to justify a change. In today's
world, I'm not sure which candidates would
win if the ballots were physically put under the noses
of all UNC students.

I'm for making it easy for everyone to vote. However,
the board of elections needs to treat everyone, of all
ages, equally. If most polling places are not within
walking distance of voters homes or jobs, why should
special precincts be set up for one population to make
it easier for that population to vote? The best example
I can think of is the special precinct for the Carol Woods
Retirement community -- and as we know, elderly
people do vote in a very high percentage. Does anyone
know its history?

It frustrates me that, in 2005, so few UNC students walked
over to Morehead Planeterium to vote. This, to me, shows
that it's not convenience, it's lack of involvement.

Given the relatively conservative nature of the student government, it would appear that conservative students are the majority voters for campus elections. If that's any indicator of engagement in local politics, a polling place on campus would benefit conservative candidates over more liberal ones.

As Joe notes, national elections bring out the students, otherwise - kerplunk.

One thing though "efficient govt with low prop taxes" = conservative? Sorry Joe, but living within your means is not really an ideology - just good sense.

Will, I believe local candidates can also inspire students... am I wrong or was student turn out higher when Mark Chilton ran for town council in 1991? Certainly it was a big deal on campus and discussed widely in the DTH.

(I remember the year because I had turned 18 a few months earlier and it was a BIG DEAL to me to vote for a student in my first election.)

Then again, is there even a way to count student turn out?

Terri, you might look at the DTH as well as student government for an indicator of student politics. I think conservatives at UNC are more active because of support they get from national Republican organizations and because of the perception that they're under attack. I'm not sure that really reflects the student body.

But are you actually suggesting UNC students run more conservative than people their age nationally? I'd find that very hard to believe.

Of the voters 18-25 who voted in the 2005 Town Council election (excluding the Durham County part of Chapel Hill) the registration breakdown was:

222 D's
48 R's
129 U's

Some of the best research about student political views at UNC I've seen was done by Fred Stutzman. Check out his findings here. He studied student politics from Facebook. (the social networking website) At the time of his study 90% of UNC Undergraduates had Facebook accounts. Facebook users classify themselves as to their political orientation.

Female 220
Male 442

Very Liberal
Female 470
Male 337

Female 2320
Male 1311

Female 1500
Male 1254

Female 1332
Male 1035

Very Conservative
Female 67
Male 113

Female 49
Male 119

Joan, Jason, to a much greater extent, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to get the students involved in 2005.

Ryan Tuck and the DTH really went above and beyond not only encouraging turnout but laying out the relevancy of local issues to the student population.

For all that, I think the candidates who spent little or no time did better than us - possibly because various organizations got behind them. Of course, I know for myself, and I pretty much am sure for Jason, reaching out to the students was not about getting a huge swell of votes - we both had worked the polls on campus long enough to know better - but because it was the right thing to do.

Whether folks don't vote for you or don't vote at all, you're running for an office where your decisions impact them. Trying to understand their needs and wants is part of governing.

For a similar reason, Laurin, Robin and I visited with the Republican Women's club. I didn't expect one vote from their membership yetI knew they deserved the courtesy of an open hearing.

I've been asked several times so I filed if I plan to "ignore" the students because of 2005. It's a kind of political calculus - supported by some of our local political operatives - that drives folks apart.

No, I don't plan to ignore the students.

And though I fully expect history to repeat itself, I will be on campus regularly - engaging folks at the pit , etc. - because I'm interested in what they think and feel about our town not because I'm out to get something.

I went to undergrad school at Bucknell, in Lewisburg, PA.
I don't remember anything about the local government,
who the mayor was, etc. The town government of Lewisburg
wasn't on my radar screen at that time in my life, so I can
understand that Chapel Hill's government is a non-concern
for UNC students. Even though all the standard arguments
applied then as now and there as here -- what the council does impacts the lives of the students, etc.

"But are you actually suggesting UNC students run more conservative than people their age nationally? I'd find that very hard to believe."

I don't know how you reached that conclusion. I postulated that since the student government is relatively conservative, conservative students must turn out to vote at a higher rate than liberal students in campus elections. That pattern contradicts John Kramer's claim that "liberals do not want to lose votes by putting this anywhere except in the laps of the students. Paint it any way you want. It is a vote grab."

Joe, I guess I was a bit more sensitive to the local scene in college.

Disenfranchisement of the students was the least of it when I went to school there... I worked with some folks to make it possible for residents of who happened to be students to vote. There, I guess like here, the local "powers that be" were quite afraid of the potential power of the student voter.

Of course, once it became easier the same result - lousy turnout.

BTW, I don't recall any non-student ever soliciting student support for a run. At least Chapel Hill has that going for it....

I know this is a progressive blog. And I know that it's appropriate for any candidate to try and get more of their voters to the polls than the opposition including telephones, rides, etc. But as progressives we should also try to make sure that all have equal and as easy access as possible no mater what their political bent.

It has been the conservatives who have tried to disenfranchise blocks of voters by making registration difficult or too few voting machines in unfriendly territory or misinformation campaigns, etc. I hope that most here would not agree with tactics.

So tell me why are we discussing the political leanings of UNC students? Should that really be a factor in deciding where early voting stations are?

I like WillR's attitude.

You are the expert on making sense of these statutes, but I keep reading 163-129 over and over and don't see that they can't ASK a church.

"To this end, the county board of elections shall be entitled to demand and use any school or other State, county, or municipal building, or a part thereof, or any other building, or a part thereof, which is supported or maintained, in whole or in part by or through tax revenues provided, however, that this section shall not be construed to permit any board of elections to demand and use any tax exempt church property for such purposes without the express consent of the individual church involved, for the purpose of conducting registration and voting for any primary or election, and it may require that the requisitioned premises, or a part thereof, be vacated for these purposes."

I don't doubt that I'm missing something, but I'm pig-headed enough to want to be sure I understand. I will take your answer as the final word - just wanted to be sure of our limitations in finding another site.


Linda, that is the provision for election day. The provision for early voting REQUIRES that it be in a public building. It is in another statute.

In any case, the State senate is voting on a bill TODAY that would allow early voting in non-public buildings with the following language:

The State Board of Elections shall not approve, either in a Plan approved unanimously by a county board of elections or in an alternative Plan proposed by a member or members of that board, a one‑stop site in a building that the county board of elections is not entitled under G.S. 163‑129 to demand and use as an election‑day voting place, unless the State Board of Elections finds that other equally suitable sites were not available and that the use of the sites chosen will not unfairly advantage or disadvantage geographic, demographic, or partisan interests of that county.

the NEW language being added by the bill begins with the words "unless"

PLEASE don't make voting any more complicated than it already is. THERE ARE PLENTY OF PLACES YOU CAN SET UP POLLS FOR THE STUDENTS ON THE UNC CAMPUS. I work at Davis Library. I'd be more than glad to volunteer my time to help set up Polls somewhere near the main campus area (maybe even Davis Library would be a possibility).

Just don't turn people off the voting process! These are kids!
Don't make them walk away at this point when the political process needs to be impressed on them. You act like people actually have time to chase around and find their polling place.
I really don't understand this unfriendly treatment of students especially since we are a college town: we're supposed to be student-FRIENDLY.

"Just don't turn people off the voting process! These are kids!"

Sue B. Field, I agree with you that voting should be made as friendly as possible. But these aren't kids, they're young adults who are old enough that they should to be willing to make at least some effort to influence the decisions that are going to impact their lives - now and perhaps for many years to come. Perhaps I'm just showing my age and living in the past but when I was in college 40 years ago I couldn't wait to become old enough to vote so that I could have the satisfaction of expressing my opinion, even if it was in a losing effort (I cast my first vote in 1968 so you can probably guess which losing effort I'm referring to).

At some point these "kids" you refer to have to realize that the world is not going to change to suit them and that if they want a better life, or to even keep the life they have, they are going to have to get involved.

George, perhaps it would also help to remember that about a quarter of these residents are brand new to town and don't have cars (indeed, aren't allowed to have cars on campus). They're still figuring out their way around campus, never mind town.

It would be difficult for anyone in that situation to find their way to some of the voting sites used for the precincts campus dorms are assigned to for voting.

When I was a student some odd years ago, we had to PAY to use the bus! Can you imagine such a thing! But I am glad to support free buses now.

Why must there be barriers to participation? It's like some kind of hazing for voting. "Only those who can find their way to Mason Farm precinct are worthy of voting in our local elections by golly!"

One of the best ways to improve the mechanics of voting on campus is to go ahead and upgrade our brand new ESS voting machines so that the BOE can support a super-precinct.

A number of us local folks had been pushing for years for authorization and in 2005 we finally got it with SB 98.

I specifically asked the sales dude for ESS if the machines our county ended up purchasing would support super precincts. I even went as far as describing the exact use-case - number of precincts, need for rural and campus sites, etc. His response "No problem."

Turns out that wasn't quite true. I've been told that the BOE can upgrade the system to support the function if the BOCC will fund it in a timely fashion.

I suggested over on BlueNC that folks contact the BOCC to get them moving on this:

BOCC - http://www.co.orange.nc.us/contact.htm
arey Jr., Moses Chair 203 Simerville Rd. Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517 (H)929-8513 (F)968-1920 mcarey1@mindspring.com
Jacobs, Barry Vice Chair 2105 Moorefields Rd. Hillsborough, N.C. 27278 (H)732-4384 (W)732-4941 (F)732-4486 barry.j@mindspring.com
Foushee, Valerie P. Commissioner 106 Claris Court Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514 (H)942-2661 (F)933-3203 vfoushee@co.orange.nc.us
Gordon, Alice M. Commissioner 282 Edgewood Dr. Chapel Hill, N.C. 27517 (H) 933-0550 (F)967-3823 gordonam@mindspring.com
Nelson, Mike Commissioner 214 Webb St. Hillsborough, N.C. 27278 (H)749-6155 mikenelsonnc@aol.com

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

I'm not suggesting that we not have a voting site on campus. In fact, I think we should if we can but if it is off-campus but within a reasonable walking distance I still think that is a suitable alternative. Many Americans, especially our African-Americans, have gone through hell to exercise their right to vote. So if students aren't particularly interested in exercising that right I'll continue to be disappointed, but I'm not going to lose my sleep over it.

I think that we should make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote and do so at a location that is easy to get to and close to where they live. Sure, Carol Woods has a separate polling site and it is very well used. Would the residents there who always seem to lead all precincts in participation vote at the same hight percentage if they had to leave the facility and vote elsewhere? Maybe, maybe not. But the point is that convenience matters.

On the other hand, students have had the opportunity to vote early on campus since early voting started. How many have taken advantage of it? Not doing so is no reason to make the site further away and harder to get to, but let's consider what we need to do to assist the greatest number of voters, potential or otherwise.

Are we going to tell the BOCC to spend more on the BOE? What gets cut? Like we seem to want to claim "the buses here are free," we ignore the fact that nothing is free - it's only a matter of who is doing the paying. Since we can't afford all of our needs and wants, we have to make choices. Do we know what we want? Some would say education, others more social services, and others want lower taxes. Voting is a way to express you preferences - wherever you have to go to do it!

well ive been watching this thread and im just going to remind people about how easy it is to get to town hall in carrboro its very simple to get to town hall in carrboro by cw the or by j bus the and on wed afternoons and sat mornings its open and also the farmers market is open too thanks ellen


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