Shorter early voting period could bring longer lines for NC primary

Posted April 4, 2014

— Anyone planning to cast an early ballot in North Carolina's upcoming primary needs to schedule carefully.

As part of a sweeping elections law that lawmakers passed last year, early voting has been shortened from 17 to 10 days. For the May 6 primary, early voting runs from April 24 through May 3.

Republican lawmakers who backed the provision say there's still plenty of time for everyone who wants to vote to cast their ballots, but critics say the move is just an attempt to make it harder to vote.

"There are a lot of ups and downs, and the thought was that we don't really need quite as many days," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, one of the main sponsors of the elections law.

In the 2012 general election, 57 percent of the votes cast in North Carolina were on early ballots, including 20 percent cast during the first week of the early voting period that no longer will be provided.

To soften the cut, lawmakers said counties would have to provide the same number of hours of early voting in 10 days that they used to offer in 17 either by staying open longer or opening more early voting sites.

"By reducing the number of days but keeping the same number of hours, we might actually get more one-stop voting sites," Lewis said.

Extra sites cost extra money to operate, however, and some counties can't afford it. Thirty-eight of North Carolina's 100 counties – mostly rural, mostly poor – were granted waivers to offer fewer early voting hours for the primary.

Voter turnout in primaries is always lighter than in general elections, especially in mid-term elections such as this year. But Anita Earls, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is challenging the elections law in court, warned that some early voters could still find long lines later this month because of the shorter early voting period.

"We have alleged that it was intentionally designed to discourage turnout by African-American voters in this state because the data show that they disproportionately made use of early voting," Earls said.

Republicans strongly deny any discriminatory motives and defend the voting changes as fair to all voters.


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  • wayneboyd Apr 4, 2014

    I don't understand the argument being made about long lines and waiting periods. I've been voting since the early 60's and I've never spent 30 minutes waiting to vote.

  • sunshine1040 Apr 4, 2014

    I did in the last presidential race but only because I went during lunch period should have went before Doctor appointment that Doctor was late for any way.

  • Norm Samuelson Apr 4, 2014
    user avatar

    I've seen lines that can easily take an hour. This is a problem for people with real jobs. I guess it's not a problem for Republican voters.

  • teleman60 Apr 4, 2014

    This is just the beginning of the manufactured voting ID law debacle. Long lines to discourage voters, changed polling places all to address nonexistent problems.

    Just as the NC gop elections commissioner said on Daily Show "if lazy people don't get to vote, WHO CARES?"

  • miseem Apr 4, 2014

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    Just wait until the volunteer "election patrols" start questioning people about their address and name. That's another gem in the elections law - anyone from anywhere in the state can "monitor" voters. Wait - I bet you are white so they won't ask you. Brown skin, that's another matter. Of course, you can always say it's none of their business when they ask. Think they are going to arrest you?

  • busyb97 Apr 4, 2014

    We've been spoiled by early voting hours that are more common in the last decade. Used to, you had ONE DAY to vote. You either went, or you didn't. 7 days will not make or break it. You are either going to vote, or you aren't. And if you don't vote, you can't complain either way.

  • Pulling for the Tarheels Apr 4, 2014

    May be a fewer days, however, MORE HOURS PER DAY-so it all evens out!!

  • davidhartman Apr 4, 2014

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    Yes, its totally crazy to require a valid photo ID to vote.


    More baseless whining from the left and I fully support that statement; if you're too lazy to get an ID, for goodness sake you have no right voting.

  • JG-Willow Spring Apr 4, 2014

    NY State still doesn't have early voting,...because of the costs it would impose on the upstate rural counties that can't afford it, and we want to cut back from 17 to 10 days and it is a tragedy?

  • Mike Jones Apr 5, 2014
    user avatar

    The only time I "need" to show ID is at the bank and the bar. What's next, being asked for our "papers" at check points?