Early Voting in Orange County

In fall 2010, more than 900,000 people voted prior to Election Day in North Carolina. Our state currently allows local counties to provide early voting sites for periods up to three weeks before Election Day. Here in Orange County, early voting is particularly popular. On the final days of early voting in 2010, the line at Morehead Planetarium snaked  through the planetarium, down the stairs and across the quad as professors, residents and students lined up to vote.

Our state’s early voting program is a national model for increasing voter access, conveniently allowing citizens to vote and register on the same day. Yet last week Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 658) to limit the time window for early voting in NC. At first glance, the motives of bill sponsor Rep. Bert Jones of Rockingham County seem tame. He says he wants to cut down on the cost of running early voting sites and save money for local Boards of Elections.

But this legislation would have a negative impact on citizens’ voting access in Orange County, particularly affecting students who frequently take advantage of early voting on campus at Morehead Planetarium. Student body presidents have repeatedly fought to maintain early voting access at the planetarium because they know it increases student turnout.

When I was president of UNC Young Democrats, our get out the vote efforts were focused on getting students to vote at the planetarium prior to Election Day because the logistics of voting on that day are challenging for students. Morehead Planetarium is not a voting site on Election Day. Precinct boundaries on campus are difficult to determine, and several polling places are far from campus, preventing students living in residence halls without access to cars from getting to their polling sites miles away. It is not uncommon for students to be denied access to vote if they go to the wrong precinct on Election Day.

Early voting does not just benefit Orange County students. Early voting has typically been open on Saturday, giving working citizens more flexibility to find a voting time that fits their schedule. Rural voters and the middle class face many challenges getting to the polls. The more flexible hours available for voting, the more opportunity all people have to participate in the democratic process.

HB 658 is another effort by the new leadership in Raleigh to systematically dismantle institutions that ensure voting access for all citizens. Republicans have proposed policies that would require citizens to provide a photo ID to vote, end the process by which citizens could “one-stop” vote and lump minority citizens together in redistricting congressional districts. Shortening early voting ensures that lines are longer during the early voting period and on Election Day, limiting access for students, rural community members and lower-income citizens. HB 658 is bad election policy specifically designed to impact already marginalized groups. Let’s stand up and tell our legislators to reject efforts that limit access to our right to vote.




As aformer UNC student, I have seen firsthand the impact of early voting. With no ElectionDay voting location that students can get to, Morehead Planetarium has beeninstrumental in allowing students/faculty/staff the opportunity to vote at a convenientlocation. If early vote is reduced fewer people will be able to vote statewideand particularly in Orange County. We shouldn't even be discussing reducing theopportunity to vote. I hope the few sensible legislators left in the GA willstand up and reject this bill!

I wish I could say it's surprising that the GOP would make this a priority, but it's not. There is a fundamental problem with our democratic republic when those governing want to make it substantially more difficult for those who might vote against them to vote at all, and that's precisely what the NC GOP is doing with this bill. It's shameful, and it hurts not only students, but working people who rely on early voting to vote during their lunch hour or on a Saturday morning.

Good post, Lee. It's not locally-specific to Orange County, but early voting and helping more students to vote is something we care about a lot.

Thanks Ruby, Even though this bill would impact all counties in NC, I hope I was able to bring to light some unique ways it would impact voters in Orange County.

"...several polling places are far from campus, preventing students living in residence halls without access to cars from getting to their polling sites miles away."  Just as students can find their way to Franklin Street, students should be able to find their way to their polling place which is closer to their residence hall than Franklin Street."It is not uncommon for students to be denied access to vote if they go to the wrong precinct on Election Day."  Completely false, as any voter in Orange County that shows up at a polling place in which they are not listed, is given the option to vote a Provisional Ballot - voters are not turned away.

Just wanted to pass the word along about this Respect Our Vote Rally next Wednesday the 13th at 11am in Raleigh.  It's a chance to oppose the voting restrictions that are being pushed, including ending pre-registration for nearly-of-age young adults, limiting early voting, ending Sunday voting/Souls to the Polls efforts, overly restrictive voter ID requirements that disproportionately disenfranchise certain groups (in particular people of color, younger voters, college students, and poorer voters), limiting provisional ballots, and attacks on same-day registration. It is also a rally against the hyperpartisan redistricting going on right now (which the Governor has no option to veto, so we really need to send a message to the legislature now), which could set us back for a decade.  I think Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said it best:  "GOP gerrymander in NC is a work of art. State voted for Obama, but McCain won between 56-58% of the vote in 10 of 13 new districts."Event info:http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6601/p/salsa/event/common/public/?ev... The quickest way to give the special interests more power is to give the voters less.  I think almost no matter what progressive issues you care about, they are hurt if these bills pass. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 ● 11:00 AMNC General Assembly Building16 W. Jones St. ● Raleigh, NC 


What's the matter with proving who you are before you vote? Makes sense to me.

Sorry, I was about to feed the troll, but I realize I shouldn't

Let self restraint be its own reward.

Your restraint is noted and appreciated.

The problem is that the bill was being pushed to alleviate voter fraud. But there is no substantive voter fraud in NC. So the agenda behind the move has to raise questions about the bottom line motives of those pushing the bill. Democracy NC has a fact sheet on the issue if you are interested in knowing more: http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/VoterIDFactSheet-6-16-2011.pdf 

There is no way to tell if there is voter fraud in NC today. The system is too easy to cheat. Polling numbers show public support for an id system to vote and even in Chapel Hill where I have worked the polls for a number of years there is support from voters. I guess the question is are you legal?

Voting is an important part of civic life, reserved for citizens. Certainly it's important to ensure that all voters (and votes) are legal.Since the 2000 election (and before), there have been accusations of vote rigging by both parties. I think some form of ID would help keep political parties from cheating the electorate.

A disproportionate number of students and traditionally marginalized groups don't have driver's licenses. While I would like to think that the intentions of the bill were pure, the record this GA has suggests otherwise. In my opinion the bill was meant to discourage turnout, particularly with Democratic voters.  

for this rally on Wednesday (forgot to mention that before)


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.