Board of Elections Keeps Early Voting Downtown and Approves 4 Sites

I’m the chair of the Board of Elections and wanted to clarify some of the discussion that has gone on about early voting:

  • In a municipal election the towns, and not the Board of Elections, select the early voting sites. The BOE just votes up or down on the submitted sites and sets hours.
  • After the Board had provisionally approved Morehead, it was told by the University on August 3, 2011 that Morehead was not a possibility. Here is the University’s official explanation:

Due to the Morehead-Cain Foundation's expansion and our subsequent loss of the
Banquet Hall on the east end of the Morehead Building, the Planetarium
and Science Center has been forced to convert the two spaces you have
used for Early Voting into permanent educational classroom spaces. We no
longer have any space available to accommodate Early Voting.

  • After we lost Morehead, I had conversations with Mayor Kleinschmidt, Senator Kinnaird and Council Member Rich to see how we could continue to have early voting on or near campus, since we had lost Morehead and had less than two weeks to find a replacement if we were to continue to have a downtown space. The chairs of both parties were informed, and I understand the student democratic organization and student government were aware of the loss of Morehead.
  • The town did a fantastic job in a nearly impossible situation. I understand that after Mayor Kleinschmidt, Council Member Czajkowski, and others discussed the issue the town agreed to offer two early voting sites for Chapel Hill – one more location than was provided in the last municipal election. 
  • Manager Roger Stancil, BOE Director Tracy Reams, and town and BOE staff did an incredible job --exploring nearly every available space in the downtown area, and University Square presented the best alternative (and frankly, the only alternative if we were to maintain a space near campus). Jason, the post office was considered and rejected because it is still an active district court, and extra foot traffic, security of the voting machines, and parking were all concerns. 
  • This was a last minute choice. The BOE only learned about the University Square space just before the Board’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and as the only proposed downtown site, the Board conditionally approved the site pending a determination that it met all of our needs. We made that determination this morning and will be going forward with the site.
  • I visited the University Square site this morning, and I think it will work well. The space is well designed for voting, there will be an electioneering area on the Granville Towers side, and ample parking.
  • We have tried to expand access to voting in a way that, I believe, is unprecedented in a municipal election. It will be possible to early vote from 9 in the morning through 7 at night and on weekends. 
  • We will have four sites – University Square on Franklin Street (Suite 133-G, not 123 as was erroneously reported by WCHL), the Seymour Center, Carrboro Town Hall, and the Board of Elections in Hillsborough.
  • University Square and Town Hall will be open 9AM – 4PM  October 20 and 21, October 24 to 28, October 31 to November 4. 
  •  The Board of Elections in Hillsborough will be open 9AM – 5PM October 20 and 21, October 24 to 28, October 31 to November 4. 
  • The Seymour Center will be open late every weekday – 12PM – 7PM October 20 and 21, October 24 to 28, October 31 to November 4. 
  • ALL SITES will be open for two Saturdays – October 29 and November 5 from 9AM to 1PM.
  • Board agendas are now posted on our web site ( in advance of meetings and minutes are posted as approved. My email is on the website. The Board is available if you have comments or questions. I received a single email about early voting, I responded to that person and they came to Tuesday's meeting.
  • The bottom line, though, is that the town and board have worked incredibly hard to increase voting opportunities and continue to offer students an early voting site despite the last minute loss of a University-based location.
  • The key thing now is voter education. The sites and times are set, so we need to do everything we can to get people to the polls.

Feel free to post any questions about this and I will try to answer any questions you might have.



I think I read the above as saying there will no early voting on Oct 22nd.  Is that correct?   Thanks,-James

Correct.  There were, I think, less than 20 early votes cast the first two days of early voting last municipal election.  It did not seem as though adding the first Saturday would capture many votes, but it seemed important to make sure Saturday voting would be available once early voting was in full swing.

I happen to have the data -- it was 22 votes on 10/15 and 10/16.  Given the lines we sometimes see later in the cycle, I think I know when I'm voting this year!

I just want to say that I am extremely appreciative of the work that the BOE does and I understand in this situation that most (if not all) of the blame lies with the university's lack of communication with interested student leaders and groups. I strongly believe that a better spot for the entire community could have been arranged.When a letter from Tracy Reams was posted on this site not too long ago, many of us worked quickly and efficiently to make sure that Morehead was saved from the town's axe. When I heard that the Morehead polling location was now on the university's chopping block, I was dismayed that so little respect was shown by the process for the student vote and those of us who have a vested interest in having an accessible polling location.I'm extremely disappointed that the university failed, in my opinion, to take all available measures to protect a site that is convenient for the faculty, staff and students at UNC. I can promise you all that we'll be working hard in the next year to fix this problem and I hope that we can expect the support of many of the people who frequent this blog.Nathan WestmorelandPresident - UNC Young Demcorats 

Of course the turnout on campus the first two days of early voting is low -- it was Fall Break in 2009 and will be fall break October 20 and 21 this year

Thanks for posting this Jim. I really appreciate your bringing a commitment to responsiveness and transparency to the BOE, particularly given some of the perennial confusion in years past about how early voting decisions are made.

Can someone clarify the rule for election day. I thought it was always the first Tuesday of November. I guess the exception is if the day before is in October? Should all of the candidates considered to be saints for running?Thanks,Loren

From WP: "It occurs on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November"

For reasons I may never understand, my father drummed into me from birth the idea that election day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This is probably the first time that tidbit of info has ever come into play in my life.

Jim, Thank you for posting this on OP. Everyone involved did a great job given the circumstances. Please thank Tracy.....This was a tough situation. Nathan, I am happy to hear that you will continue to work on this issue. Let me know how I can help. Big thanks to the Mayor and the Manager and of course the Honorable Senator Kinnaird.

Seeing the process behind it, and seeing that there will be 4 sites, really demystifies this situation and makes things seem a lot more reasonable.I do wish that the university had shared its intentions much sooner and had communicated them much more broadly, but I now feel much more comfortable with the way the response to this was handled given the rapid turn around required.

So which is it, is Seymour going to be open late on weekdays or it is going to be open until 7? Yet again, the ratio of early voting hours during times people that work business hours are involved with their job to early voting hours on the weekend or nights is about 10 to 1.  Let's see if anyone protests the injustice.  My prediction is they won't.

Not sure if there is a genuine question there, but the hours are correct, Seymour until 7.  A poster elewhere on OP said that the board took 45 minutes to debate the downtown site's location.  Actually, there was no real debate, we simply voted to select the one downtown option in a matter of minutes.  We did, however, spend nearly an hour debating hours and access and discussing the importance of making early voting available to people who work during the day but do not work downtown.  That was one reason for the Board's unanimous vote for an extra Saturday.  If the Saturday Oct 29 voting numbers are high, then that gives us data that will support expanded hours in the 2012 primary. Because U Square principally serves students and  university staff, we do not know what positive impact a shift to later hours there would have.  When voting was at Morehead, we were constrained by University hours, and voting could not go on past 4, so it was a nonissue.  Now that we are off campus, we can begin to think about changing those hours.  After much debate, (and in part because of the last minute nature of the shift, never having used the site before, and already having staffed the site with people committed to working 9 - 4) we have decided to keep the same hours for this election.   The board's voting data is presently gathered by the day,  and I would like to see more data to work from as we make decisions for hours for the primary.  If possible, I would like to gather info in 4 hour blocks this election so we can see when people vote rather than working off of anecdotal evidence.  I would also like to see if we can survey voters about what times and locations would work for them.  I am certainly committed to increased access, but  finding the best hours for early voting will require time and thought, and change will be incremental.  It obviously makes sense to have early voting when people vote, but making that so is harder than it sounds. Carrboro's hours are fixed by Carrboro -- our understanding is that we need to be out of Town Hall by a certain time.  If we can get evening access there (maybe even by moving to the Century Center), I think evening hours would make sense in Carrboro.There is set up and shut down time for voting, and Tracy Reams, for the most part oversees it all.  Therefore on a day where voting starts at 9AM and ends at 7PM, expect her to work from about 7AM to 9PM for two solid weeks and weekends.  There are any number of logistical headaches that come with later hours (including increased costs).  That doesn't mean we don't need later hours and should not do them, or that we won't ultimately have them, it just means that changes in hours need to be done thoughtfully in a way that we know will work.  The board needs to seriously consider the input of the BOE staff on the ground that does the hard work here while considering voter needs at the same time.  After looking at everything, we need to make our decision, figuring out how to deal with the logistics while increasing voter access at the same time.  Input from the public helps.  The agendas for our meetings are on the web. Come with ideas, you  are more than welcome.  

Jim, appreciate all your time on this issue. I am not sure the relevance of gathering voting stats in 4 hour blocks for University Square this fall  when none of the hours are after work/class. In Wake County where I've worked for the BoE numerous elections we switched ALL the satellite sites by 2004 to 11 to 7 because we found little voting from 9 to 11 and LOTS after work. In 2008 all 14 satellite sites were 11 to 7. Parking is also a lot easier after 5 pm, and it's much more convenient for the voters late afternoon and early evening. At the oncampus EV site in Wake County we found few wanting to risk coming BEFORE classes and standing in line.  That being said, for this fall's Raleigh city, Cary town and county school board elections, there are precisely TWO sites in all of Wake County, one at the BoE office in downtown Raleigh and one at a community center in Cary. So 4 in Orange County beats us hands down. While I realize you have people signed up to work 9 to 4 at University Square already, I'd encourage you to consider 11 to 6 -- no more hours but much more useful.

duplicate, sorry

should be on Saturdays. Rhetorical question alert: Who is against that?

NC primaries were on Saturdays 1917 thru 1972 when they were changed to Tuesday at request of Jewish legislators

If you're going to have early voting for 92-104 hours at each site, as that list indicates, I think much more than 8 hours be on weekends.  For someone that works on weekdays, which is most people BTW, all of the 84-96 weekday hours are very inconvenient at best.I voted on a Saturday morning at Seymour last November and I waited nearly and hour and the line was longer when I left than when I got there.  You can call that an anecdote but it's an anecdote that relates the experiences of a lot of people, i.e., everybody else in line.  When I finished voting and left I counted the people in line and while I can't remember the exact number now, it was over 100.  I think it was in the 110s.  And the whole place was such a madhouse with cars everywhere and lines snaking through the parking lot that I wouldn't doubt that some people wanting to vote drove up, saw the chaos, and turned around and went home.  I've never done early voting during a weekday (naturally, since I have to work) but I suspect there is never a line then like there was on that Saturday morning at Seymour.  Simple reasoning tells me that it's likely that the  line was so long because those people can't just drop everything and go vote during one of the 12 all day weekdays and instead are restricted to the two 4 hour Saturday morning blocks. Why not stay open all day a couple Saturdays (and Sundays too)?  You could eliminate a lot of the weekday voting in exchange and still have a lot of weekday voting left over.  If you're worried about staffing, assuming some of the staffing is done on a volunteer basis consider that your potential  pool of volunteers is much larger on weekends because after all, a big chunk of people can't possibly volunteer on weekdays for the same reason they can't vote on weekdays, namely they have to work!  Voting is nice but having money to pay my mortgage and buy food is even nicer, thus when pressed I'll choose workng over voting.And assuming some of the staffing is done by volunteers, you could increase your numbers by getting the word out a little more.  You need volunteers?  I'll volunteer, but only on a weekend.  Weekdays are already booked up for me and a lot of other people too.

I would be curious to know when (day of the week and time, not date) you and whatever other powers there are chose the early voting times.  Or more specifically, I'd be curious to know if you came to your decision during the weekday hours which you've designated to be 90-ish percent of early voting hours and if so whether it was a part of your job. My point of course it this.  If this is part of your job then you do it during working hours.  Fine.  But if it's not part of your job then you do it outside working hours.  So if you can't come to the decision on early voting hours during working hours because you instead have to do your job at those times then that means that people like you can't go vote during working hours because they instead have to do their job at those times too.  Right?

Like most county boards, the BOE is a volunteer board, so I willingly
took time away from work to do this, as did the other board members, as
do most  vounteer board members in the county.  By statute, however, the
polls are not staffed by volunteers, but trained employees.

 The point that everyone is making about hours is well taken, but the
Board doesn't need to be convinced that it makes sense to have the polls
open for early voting when people can vote, and we support evening and weekend hours.  I like Wake's idea of
having all voting in the afternoon and early evening, and that is
certainly worth exploring in future elections.  The hours and locations
are set for this municipal election, and frankly the uncertainty about
location made it difficult to also deal with changing hours downtown
without knowing for sure where the downtown site would be (as I
mentioned, evenings were not an option in Carrboro, we did set
evening hours at Seymour, and added Saturdays at all sites (9-1 for the municipal election)).

 I would like to see more evening and weekend hours for early voting,
and hope to do more about that for the May primary and Presidential
election.   We have several months to work the logistical issues out,
but constructive ideas are always welcome.


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